Wenger bemoans Bolton's 'bad' tackling as Arsenal limp into battle

Arsene Wenger's Arsenal begin their Champions League journey tonight aiming to go all the way to the final, which geographically is no distance – "Wembley is only six miles," as the manager said yesterday before conceding, "but unfortunately that is a long way." The trip will be made increasingly difficult if Arsenal maintain their current rate of picking up injuries en route.

Abou Diaby is the latest concern after being ruled out of tonight's Group H opener against SC Braga at the Emirates Stadium, with the Bolton Wanderers defender Paul Robinson angering Wenger after damaging the France midfielder's ankle. The Football Association is not taking retrospective action against Robinson, with the consequences of the tackle seeing Diaby out of action for the foreseeable future.

"The tackle was very bad," the Arsenal manager said. "I do not know for how long [he will be out]. What can I say? You ask me about the tackle and I say it's very bad and I can't protect the players – only the FA can do that.

"If I pay £50 and I go to a football game what do I want to see? Do I want to see Fabregas who plays football or do I want to see the guy who kicks you from behind?" Diaby joins key players such as Thomas Vermaelen, Theo Walcott, Robin van Persie, Nicklas Bendtner and Aaron Ramsey on the sidelines. "So it is quite a good team all out," Wenger said. Luckily for Wenger, Braga are not expected to be as physical in their approach tonight.

Wembley is actually around 11 miles from the Emirates, a little further than Wenger suggested but it appears a "long way" to Wenger, partly because he admits that his team need to develop the mentality of winners to match their technique on the ball.

"The mental side is the issue of everybody," he said. "The problem as well is that the level of competition is high and in the second part of the tournament it becomes a real cup game, when it is knockout it becomes a different competition. You have to have your best players available, the decisions to go for you and all that. We are always there, not far from Wembley. Quarters, semi-final, we've been there."

Their opening opponents are a team nicknamed Minho's Arsenalistas after taking the red and white of Arsenal when they changed their team shirts in 1921. The Portuguese side have knocked out Seville already thanks to a hat-trick from Lima, one of 13 Brazilians in their squad.

"They have a strong Brazilian influence," Wenger said. "They are physically strong and are well organised. What impresses me is that we played Porto last year, and they finished in front of Porto. Also in the qualifying round they beat Seville home and away, and that helps us to be on our toes."

Shakhtar Donetsk and FK Partizan are Arsenal's other opponents before thoughts will turn to the knockout round. Wenger feels last season's early exits for English clubs in the competition was "an accident" and the Premier League is still the strongest in Europe. "We have to show that last year was an accident," he said. "Unfortunately we went out against Barcelona who were better than us over two legs.

"We have to come back and show we can compete with them," Wenger added. "Overall I think it was an accident but we will see. I think it is the strongest league in Europe."

The injury list is a test of the depth of Wenger's squad as he is not prioritising the Premier League over performing well in Europe this season. "You cannot because we go three days later to Sunderland and that is a vital game for us," he said.

"That is as big a game as [this one] because we have no priority, we want to win something no matter what it is, championship or Champions League. For example on Saturday I selected a team just to beat Bolton, and I rotated some players who played in the national teams, but not specially looking at the Braga game."

Arts and Entertainment
'A voice untroubled by time': Kate Bush
musicReview: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses papparrazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
News
i100
News
Ukrainian Leonid Stadnik, 37, 2.59 meter (8,5 feet) tall, the world's tallest living man, waves as he poses for the media by the Chevrolet Tacuma car presented to him by President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko in Kiev on March 24, 2008.
newsPeasant farmer towered at almost 8'5'' - but shunned the limelight
News
Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in ‘The Front Page’, using an old tech typewriter
media
Life and Style
Could a robot sheepdog find itself working at Skipton Auction Mart?
techModel would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian
film
Sport
Angel Di Maria poses with Louis van Gaal after signing for Manchester United
sportWinger arrives from Real Madrid and could make debut on Saturday
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Hooked on classical: cellist Rachael Lander began drinking to combat panic attacks
musicThe cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow...
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis