Wenger remains calm as Arsenal seek European progress

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The Independent Football

Despite appearances to the contrary on Saturday, when Arsenal lost to Fulham, Arsène Wenger yesterday insisted that his squad was strong enough to challenge for major honours.

Wenger's team were thoroughly outplayed at Craven Cottage despite being almost at full-strength – arguably only Cesc Fabregas, Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky were absent – but the Arsenal manager is determined to stick to his young Gunners as he prepares them for tonight's Champions League qualifier with FC Twente.

"I believe we have a strong squad and I believe in the players I have instead of always looking at who might be coming in," he said. "It is not one player who makes a difference. It is up to us as team to show personality, strength and belief within the squad. That will make the difference. We just look at the right player and if we can get him, we get him. If we don't, we don't. If nothing is done, it will not limit our ambitions because of it.

"The names [that other teams are signing] do not impress me. What is impressive for me is the attitude, the quality. There is only one thing important and that is what you do on the pitch. I agree that what we did on the pitch on Saturday was not good enough, but all the rest is not very interesting and not very useful.

"We were not good on Saturday and we lost the game, it is as simple as that," said Wenger, who expects key midfielder Fabregas to return from a hamstring injury. "You cannot want the supporters not to take it to heart because we do. We are all very disappointed with our performance. We completely understand the critics because we were not good – but we promise we will come back and play well tomorrow."

Lee Dixon, the former Gunners defender, hit out at the efforts and leadership qualities of captain William Gallas, who allowed the Norwegian centre-back Brede Hangeland to steal in and strike what proved to be the winning goal from a first-half corner.

However, Wenger refused to put the blame completely on his skipper. "We did not play well as a team, everybody knows that and William is no more guilty than anybody else," said the Arsenal manager. "It would be unfair to single anybody out. We lost as a team and we want to respond as a team.

"We live in a world now where you have to accept the critics. But I know my squad is good, my team is good, our spirit is good. We are intelligent enough to know we did not play well on Saturday, but we know as well we have the quality to respond."

Wenger insists there is "no news" on the signing of a creative midfielder after being linked with Gareth Barry, Xabi Alonso and Udinese's £8m-rated Switzerland international Gokhan Inler.

Arsenal came through a stern examination by Twente in the first leg a fortnight ago in Arnhem, where late goals from Gallas and Emmanuel Adebayor put them in the driving seat towards a potential £20m jackpot in the Champions League proper.

However, Wenger maintains there is still work to be done. "The job is not over," he said. "We have to respect Twente and come into the game with a desire to win."

Tonight's probable Emirates teams

Arsenal (4-4-2)

Manuel Almunia

Bacary Sagna

Kolo Touré

William Gallas

Gaël Clichy;

Theo Walcott

Cesc Fabregas


Samir Nasri;

Emmanuel Adebayor

Robin van Persie

FC Twente (4-4-2)

Sander Boschker

Rob Wielaert

Cheik Tiote

Douglas Franco

Edson Braafheid

Youssouf Hersi

Wout Brama

Marko Arnautovic

Theo Janssen;

Eljero Elia

Romano Denneboom