Wenger: Chelsea win crucial to recovery
Arsene Wenger feels their trip to Chelsea will provide the perfect test by which to measure Arsenal's recovery.
The Gunners head to Stamford Bridge on the back of seven wins from eight games, which has moved them up the Barclays Premier League table, to the top of their Champions League group and into the last eight of the Carling Cup.
Wenger, though, also knows full well that hard work could be severely dented with a poor away performance.
"First of all a win would of course install us among the top teams in the league, but what is very important is that it would strengthen the belief inside the team and would continue our progress," said the Arsenal manager.
"I feel we are getting stronger and Chelsea is a big test - a test of strength, of resolve, of commitment, and that is what we expect tomorrow."
Wenger had used his address to yesterday's shareholders Annual General Meeting to launch an impassioned defence of his young team, calling on the fans to stay united behind the board's vision for success.
The 62-year-old Frenchman, who has been in charge for some 15 seasons, maintains he "spoke from the heart" and is positive for the challenges ahead.
"I just spoke honestly about how I feel about the situation inside the club and how I feel the team is," he said.
"Of course you could feel concern among our fans with the start to the season we had. There are worries and I just wanted to promise that we would give absolutely everything to continue our progress and our improvement.
"I feel that is happening and I feel there is a deep desire within the team."
Arsenal could close to within three points of the top four with victory, and Wenger accepts Champions League qualification is the "minimal target".
However, the Gunners boss also refused to throw in the towel on the title itself just yet.
"Of course at the moment we are far from Manchester City - 12 points - so today we have to get back to a shorter distance before we can say we will fight for the title," Wenger said.
"What is important for us is to first get back in a fighting position closer to the top."
The Arsenal boss added: "Who would write off the title after nine games? People who do that have nothing to do in this job if you don't believe that you have a chance.
"But we have to be realistic at the moment, we are not in contention for that.
"However, there are only nine games played so what is important is to fight, to get in there.
"No team has won the championship after nine games. It is impossible, no matter how much you know football, to predict who will win the league after nine games."
Chelsea will be without suspended striker Didier Drogba, who has proved too much for Arsenal's side rearguard over many encounters, after his red card in last week's 1-0 defeat at QPR, where defender Jose Bosingwa was also sent off.
New Blues boss Andre Villas-Boas has started to show signs of pressure, lambasting the referee again at Loftus Road.
Wenger admits the Chelsea job is a "big task and a big responsibility for a young man" but feels the 34-year-old former Porto coach is progressing well.
"Chelsea knew him because he had already worked there before, so they must have detected qualities that make them feel he is competent enough to do it," said Wenger.
"I like Villas-Boas because he is a man who speaks his mind. He is intelligent and likes to play as well.
"He likes to play football, he likes to go forward so it should be an interesting game."