Arsene Wenger maintains it is vital Arsenal win the head-to-head battles against their Barclays Premier League title rivals this season - starting at Chelsea on Sunday.

The Gunners suffered a shock home defeat to West Brom last weekend, although quickly got that out of their system with a hard-fought 3-1 victory away to Partizan Belgrade in the Champions League on Tuesday night. Another loss at Chelsea - themselves beaten at Manchester City - would leave Arsenal seven points adrift of the leaders.

"The only team I have seen win the Premier League without winning the big games is Manchester United. It is vitally important to win the big games," said Wenger.

"It is easier to play Chelsea on Sunday when they have lost two games than two weeks ago, that is for sure.

"Every defeat makes you just a fraction smaller."

The Gunners head across to west London with a poor record against the Blues since they were the dominant force in English football, recording just two wins from the previous 17 meetings, including defeats in the 2007 Carling Cup final and an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley during April 2009.

Wenger may be without captain Cesc Fabregas because of injury, along with the likes of centre-half Thomas Vermaelen, first-choice keeper Manuel Almunia and forwards Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie, but the Arsenal manager insists his young squad have the talent to combat the power of Chelsea.

"What for you is physical strength? How can you explain Spain winning the World Cup and Barcelona beating Chelsea in the Champions League?" Wenger said.

"Football is not only down to physique. It is down to intelligence, technique, mobility.

"There is not one way. That is what makes it interesting."

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