(Reuters) - Arsenal are a better side than when they beat Borussia Dortmund two seasons ago and this year’s consistent form gives them even more confidence about hosting the German side in Champions League Group F, manager Arsene Wenger said on Monday.
The only negative for the Premier League leaders, who demonstrated top quality in the goals they scored in a 4-1 win over Norwich City on Saturday, is that they will be without midfielder Mathieu Flamini on Tuesday because of concussion.
Arsenal and last season’s runners-up Dortmund met in the group stages of the 2011/12 edition of the competition with Wenger’s side winning the home fixture 2-1.
“I believe we are much better, that our young players have gained experience and maturity and that the consistency of our results since January 1, 2013 shows that we are capable to be consistent,” Wenger told a news conference.
“And consistency is always a sign of quality especially in the Premier League.”
Jack Wilshere’s exquisite goal against Norwich, which came after a wonderful move involving Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud, is the type of class Wenger is talking about as the Group F leaders seek to make it nine points from three games.
With 10 points widely accepted as the number that will usually put a team through to the knockout stage, Wenger knows victory on Tuesday would put them within touching distance.
“It’s not a decider but an important one, it’s an 80 percent game for the qualifying, if we win the game we know that if we win the other home game we are there,” he said.
Playmaker Mesut Ozil said the movement for Wilshere’s goal was so good that it could have come from a computer game.
”I’ve got to praise the three players involved for the first goal,“ he told Arsenal Player. ”It was real ‘tiki taka’ - almost like they were playing PlayStation! It was an unbelievable goal.
“(Confidence) is really high. We know what we can do but we won’t get carried away. It’s still very early but we know how much potential we have in the team. We just enjoy playing and it shows on the pitch.”
Wenger said that despite Saturday’s fantastic performance, there were still areas of the game they could improve.
“What is for sure is that for our confidence it is good and that we know that we have room for improvement and being in the position we are in at the moment and knowing that we have room for improvement is of course a good feeling,” he said.
His side boast a reasonable amount of insider knowledge of their opponents with Germany internationals Ozil and Per Mertesacker very familiar with the Bundesliga and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny aware of the skills of Poland team mates Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski.
They will, however, be without Flamini who came off midway through the first half against Norwich but who trained with the team on Monday, raising expectations that he might be back in time.
“Flamini is doing well, he has practised normally but we will not play him tomorrow,” Wenger said.
“There is a five-day rule which we will respect, not to take any chance. It was concussion and the doctor advised us not to play him.”
Wenger said Flamini would be fit for the Premier League trip to Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Reporting by Sonia Oxley; editing by Clare Fallon