LONDON (Reuters) - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is concerned his flying team may lose some of their intensity as their “big month” continues with a trip to Old Trafford on Sunday (1610 GMT).
The Premier League leaders face champions Manchester United hot on the heels of beating Liverpool 2-0 at the Emirates and overcoming Borussia Dortmund 1-0 away in the Champions League, with midfielder Aaron Ramsey especially on fire.
Arsenal’s victory over Liverpool last weekend put them five points clear at the top for their biggest lead since February 2008. The Gunners have lost only once in the league this season, a 3-1 opening day home defeat by Aston Villa.
“We passed (the test against Liverpool) in a convincing way,” Wenger told Arsenal Player.
”The focus of the team and the togetherness you could feel from the outside, they refused to lose this game and you could feel that from the start.
“You could not have predicted that after the first game (Villa) so let’s enjoy it, take a lot of encouragement from it and continue to develop as a team,” Wenger added.
“And as well be cautious and be on our toes, because we changed it in an emphatic way so let’s make sure we continue to grow and not think ‘OK let’s have a little breather’.”
The tables have turned since a beleaguered Arsenal were humiliated 8-2 by United, which included a Wayne Rooney hat-trick, in August 2011 in a low point for Wenger.
Arsenal, who have not won silverware since 2005, are now eight points ahead of a United side still adapting to manager David Moyes’ methods following Alex Ferguson’s retirement after winning his 13th Premier League title last season.
“At the moment, with 10 games played, you can say 25 percent of the season (has gone). You see the first tendencies and trends but it’s still not settled,” Wenger said.
“By the end of November you will have a clearer idea.”
Robin van Persie was on the scoresheet for Arsenal that day in 2011 but will lead the line in the red of United on Sunday having come on as a substitute and missed a penalty in the midweek 0-0 Champions League draw at Real Sociedad.
Strike partner Rooney feels Arsenal are peaking too early.
“We’ve seen before that they’ve been in the top two until February or March and then faded away,” the England man said.
Moyes’s side are beginning to find their feet, even if winger Ashley Young is often hitting the deck.
His latest fall to win the spot-kick in Spain has been slammed by pundits, although his manager said he was fouled having criticized him for a dive earlier this season.
Second-placed Chelsea host West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool, in third, play struggling Fulham at Anfield on Saturday (1500).
On Sunday (1200), fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur welcome a Newcastle United side buoyed by a 2-0 win over Chelsea.
Jose Mourinho lambasted his players for last weekend’s Newcastle defeat but a 3-0 Champions League win over Schalke 04 cheered his mood, with Samuel Eto‘o scoring twice as he looks to replace the injured Fernando Torres domestically.
Everton and Manchester City have trips to lowly Crystal Palace and Sunderland on Saturday (1500) and Sunday (14.05) respectively. Swansea City host Stoke City on Sunday (1610).
High-flying Southampton entertain Hull City on Saturday having conceded two rare goals in Wednesday’s 2-1 Capital One Cup defeat and Aston Villa host Cardiff City.
Under pressure Norwich City boss Chris Hughton seeks a quick recovery against West Ham United in Saturday’s late game (1730) having shipped seven goals at Manchester City last weekend.
Editing by Ed Osmond