Wenger expects City shoot-out
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger maintains Sunday's Barclays Premier League clash with Manchester City at Emirates Stadium is an all or nothing showdown for both clubs.
The Gunners host the defending champions needing a victory to close back within striking distance of the top four.
City, meanwhile, cannot afford another poor showing at Emirates Stadium - where they have never won in the Premier League - if they are to hang onto the coattails of Manchester United, who host Liverpool in the lunchtime kick-off.
Wenger admits anything other than a maximum-points haul will do either side's ambitions little good.
"I think they are in a situation where a draw will not be good enough, and we are in the same situation," said the Arsenal manager.
"The fact that both teams have to absolutely go for a win promises a more open game.
"When you are in that (title) situation, you don't want to drop more points because it can be damaging for your chances."
Wenger added: "It (the championship) is still very open. When you watch the games, no team today goes into a Premier League game and is sure to win it, therefore I believe every team can drop points.
"It is much more open than people think it is."
Talk of a sustained title challenge from the Gunners may be pure fantasy once again following too many inconsistent performances, but Wenger knows his men cannot afford to start a run of potential season-defining fixtures with anything other than the required performance against the champions.
"At the moment we are still trying to shorten the distance between us and the top," said Wenger.
"The players are ambitious. This group has a fantastic attitude.
"They were not always playing in a positive environment, so it was not easy for them, but I could not for one day fault their concentration and focus to do well.
"I want this group to be rewarded and hope we can show that in the coming months."
City manager Roberto Mancini claims Manchester United are of no concern to him ahead of the key clash.
The Italian says he has no interest in his title rivals' much-hyped clash with Liverpool as he prepares for the trip to Arsenal.
With a number of key players missing - including Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri - Mancini wants to focus only on his own team and not the pressures of the title race.
He said: "We should go our way. We can't think about United or other teams.
"We don't see the table in this moment but at the end of February.
"Also it is difficult because we are missing important players but we want to do a good job on Sunday."
The Toure brothers, midfield star Yaya and defender Kolo, are preparing for the African Nations Cup with Ivory Coast, striker Aguero has a hamstring injury and former Arsenal playmaker Nasri is suspended.
Defender Aleksandar Kolarov is back in contention but Maicon, Micah Richards and Jack Rodwell are still sidelined.
Mancini said: "We can do nothing - Yaya is in South Africa but the problem is we are missing three or four important players, Samir, Sergio and the others.
"But I think if we work hard we can do well.
"Yes, we have had a lot of injuries this year. Last year we were really lucky, this year maybe not.
"We have had important players injured but this is football. We need to work, we need to work with players we have.
"We should take one or two young players because we have 16 and we hope we can recover injured players for next week."
Mancini is not concerning himself with United because he feels there is plenty of time to overhaul the deficit.
With City having memorably recovered from eight points down with six games remaining to win the title last season, he knows there is no need to panic yet.
He said: "I don't think we deserve to be seven points behind but now we can do nothing, only start to win.
"We have a difficult game now, because we play against Arsenal, but the season is long and is very difficult.
"We have another 17 games. I think we can recover these points."
City hope Aguero will be fit to return for next week's clash with Fulham.
The Argentinian, last season's top scorer with 30 goals, tore a hamstring in the New Year's Day win over Stoke.
Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez are likely to continue up front in his absence although Mario Balotelli is back in contention after overcoming a virus and scoring twice for the under-21s on Monday.