Arsene Wenger has every confidence his Arsenal side can continue their development by delivering another landmark performance when they tackle Besiktas in Istanbul tonight and take a big step towards Champions League qualification.
The Gunners flew into Turkey on Monday evening with confidence boosted following a late 2-1 win over Crystal Palace on the first day of the new Barclays Premier League season, which came a week after defending champions Manchester City had been defeated 3-0 in the Community Shield.
Wenger, though, was the first to admit Saturday’s was not a vintage display by the FA Cup winners, still missing German World Cup trio Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski.
However, the Arsenal manager remains positive his side can again rise to the challenge against Slaven Bilic’s well-drilled outfit at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium.
“Every game you win makes you stronger. On that front, winning games helps you to gain confidence. The group still needs to grow,” said Wenger.
“We were not completely happy with our performance last Saturday and want to improve here.
“This is a big test. We had a short preparation, and we know that in one week we have three big games. Besiktas home and away, and Everton in between.”
He added: “Every challenge is different and beating a Turkish team away from home is very difficult, but we want to perform at our best.
“Besiktas are on the back of a good result against Feyenoord (in the last round), so we are on our toes and want to produce a good result.”
Wenger is ready to put his proud record of 16 consecutive seasons playing in Europe’s elite competition up against any other success, with qualification set to bring with it some €8.6million in prize money, with each subsequent group home match worth around €3.75million in match-day revenue.
“It’s difficult because in England the competition is always hard. There are six or seven clubs who can get into the top four,” said Wenger, whose nine-season trophy drought was finally ended with FA Cup glory at Wembley in May.
“We finished fourth with 79 points last year, but in the past have won the championship with 78. That shows you that the number of teams who can achieve big, big quality in England has increased. There are six or seven teams who can fight for the championship this year.”
He added: “You let people judge what you do. All I can do is do my best every day and accept the verdict. I’m in a public job, so I accept it.”
Arsenal brought in Chile forward Alexis Sanchez in a €37.5million deal from Barcelona in July, following on from the club-record signing of playmaker Ozil from Real Madrid last summer.
Wenger maintains qualifying against for the group stages is about more than just being able to sign top players.
“It doesn’t affect too much my transfer policy. Financially it’s a big game, but that’s not the most important thing,” he said.
“We want to compete at the top level and want to fight with the best in Europe. That’s the point of this competition for us, not the financial consequences.”
Arsenal will be without defender Kieran Gibbs (hamstring), but centre-back Laurent Koscielny has shrugged off an Achilles problem.
Midfielder Mathieu Flamini returns after missing the Palace game through illness, but forward Yaya Sanogo (hamstring) did not travel to Turkey.