Arsenal happy to be back in from cold

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The Independent Online

Lee Dixon, Arsenal's stand-in captain for their disappointing 3-0 defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions' League on Tuesday night, is confident his side's poor performance will not lead to any further complacency as the Gunners chase trophies at home and abroad.

Lee Dixon, Arsenal's stand-in captain for their disappointing 3-0 defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions' League on Tuesday night, is confident his side's poor performance will not lead to any further complacency as the Gunners chase trophies at home and abroad.

Arsenal were already assured of first place in Group B before the match - and therefore a preferable draw in tomorrow's pairings for the second group stages - and their manager, Arsÿne Wenger, therefore fielded a partly weakened side for the match, played in bitterly cold conditions in a remote Ukrainian coal-mining region 800 miles east of Kiev.

However Arsenal were eventually grateful of their safe passage to the next stage as they suffered their biggest defeat in European competition since Spartak Moscow beat them 5-2 at Highbury in the 1982-83 Uefa Cup.

The Gunners did not want to see their unbeaten European record this season shot down in such demoralising fashion and Dixon said: "We have players who don't like being beaten whatever the circumstances and I would say it is a little reminder from which we have to learn.

"The players were philosophical in the dressing room afterwards. We went into the match on a long unbeaten run and now the best way to make up for Tuesday's result is to start another one."

Arsenal appear to have a heaven-sent opportunity at home to the Premiership's bottom club, Derby, on Saturday, although they then face a severely testing period with away matches at Everton, Leeds, Tottenham and Liverpool before Christmas, by which time two second-round Champions' League matches must be negotiated as well.

At least Arsenal will not be pitched back into the freezing Eastern European winter. Spartak, the Group A runners-up, are the only side from that region the last 16 and Uefa has decreed they cannot play home games before the end of February because of the harsh climate.

As Group B winners, Arsenal will face at least two runners-up from other groups in the next round, but they cannot meet either Lazio, who finished second behind them, or Manchester United and Leeds, should they qualify.

Wenger insisted: "That wasn't the real Arsenal out there in Donetsk. I'm confident the performance was just a one-off. Shakhtar played very well and had the motivation of earning a Uefa Cup place but the game was never going to change anything for us.

"That is a problem the Champions' League has in the later stages of a group when one team playing another has a much higher level of motivation."

Wenger also made a dig at the expense of the Danish linesman who flagged both Sylvain Wiltord and Thierry Henry offside when they put the ball in the net, and said: "Shakhtar went down to 10 men when we beat them at Highbury. This time it looked like they played with 12. On the television replay both Wiltord and Henry appear to me to have scored regular goals."

The England goalkeeper David Seaman, who has had a shoulder injury, and the captain Tony Adams could both be recalled for Saturday's meeting with Derby and the midfielder Patrick Vieira and the defender Silvinho should be fit as well. Ironically Dixon could be forced to give way to his rival for the right-back position, Oleg Luzhny, the Ukrainian who missed the trip home this week because of a knee injury.

Wenger carefully guards the careers of his Arsenal veterans and may well feel that three matches in nine days is too much for the 36-year-old Dixon.

But Dixon said: "I still want to play in every match and every competition. I'm annoyed whenever I'm left out even though I have to concede in my mind sometimes that it is for the best.

"I don't know if I'll be playing Champions' League next season - or even for Arsenal - but I still relish the time I've got left in the game."

The England defender Martin Keown, whose two dramatic late goals snatched victory at home to Shakhtar in September, was responsible for giving two away this time, failing to cut out a long forward ball for the first and a right-wing cross for the second.

He said: "I lost the ball in the floodlights as it came over my shoulder for the first goal and I was off balance for the second. I expect I will be slaughtered for it."

Dixon's final verdict was: "It was a bad night for us and we are still feeling cold, but you know our record at this club. We always bounce back."

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