Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Gunners looking forward to boost morale with a Champions League victory

Arsenal coach and boss Arsene Wenger is relying upon a good performance against tough Fenerbahce in the Champions League to help lift his squad after a humbling week at home.

The London team have slipped six points behind leading pair FC Chelsea and Liverpool in the Premier League after a 4-4 draw with Tottenham and a shock 2-1 loss at lowly Stoke.

In fact, a quick response is essential to help keep alive hopes of a first English championship since 2004 and Wenger will be hoping Fenerbahce's players prove as accommodating as they did two weeks ago when they capitulated 5-2 to Arsenal in the national stadium of Turkey.

What's more, with an initial 1-1 draw at Dynamo Kiev and a 4-0 win over FC Porto already in the bag, victory against Fenerbahce could clinch Arsenal's place in the next round, allowing Wenger to concentrate on getting things together in the Premier League.

"I am convinced that once you qualify in the Champions League you can be completely focused and if needed, rest some players in the Champions League," Wenger said. "That is why for us, it is important to qualify as quickly as possible, especially as we didn't win our last game.

"Of course, we had two bad experiences recently and that is why it is important to come back to winning ways and to qualify."

But Arsene Wenger has just 15 fit players for the game, with Theo Walcott and Emmanuel Adebayor joining the list of injured players during Saturday's 2-1 loss at Stoke.

With Abou Diaby, Thomas Rosicky and Eduardo da Silva also on the sidelines, Wenger accused opponents of deliberately setting out to hurt his young team. Arsenal has not won a trophy since the combative Patrick Vieira left in 2005 and has since been accused of being easy to muscle out of games.

Arsenal's best performances since that FA Cup triumph have mostly come in Europe, with its biggest achievement being an appearance in the 2006 Champions League final.

As we know, Wenger reeled off the names of Walcott, Adebayor, Diaby, Rosicky, Eduardo and Bacary Sagna — who could recover from an injury sustained against Stoke in time to play Fenerbahce — and insisted that each was injured after being deliberately targeted.

As for French defender William Gallas, he will miss Wednesday's match but could return from a hamstring injury in time to face Manchester United on Saturday for the first of several games key to Arsenal's slim chances of winning the Premier League.

"We lost a match but we are six points behind the leaders," Wenger said. "It is the start of November and we have plenty of quality to get it back. The same persons who say we are not good, let them say it in three weeks when we are the best."

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