Bully boy opponents are no longer a problem for Arsenal, insists manager Arsene Wenger
Arsenal manager says his team have grown up and now combine brains and brawn
Friday 19 April 2013
Arséne Wenger promised that his Arsenal side would not be out-muscled as they push for Champions League qualification. Wenger was unhappy about Everton's approach on Tuesday night but insisted his team are no longer intimidated as they have been in the past, as they prepare for their final five Premier League games of the season.
This Arsenal side is stronger and more experienced than four or five years ago, and Wenger said they were not as vulnerable to roughing up as his last team.
"We were [vulnerable] for a while because we were very, very young," Wenger admitted. "For a while, when we built the stadium here, we were much younger. And, of course, vulnerable. With [Cesc] Fabregas, at 17 years of age, we were a bit more vulnerable at Stoke than we are today. That's natural."
Wenger believes that players can learn from the physical nature of the English game and improve as a result. "I don't think it holds players back," he said. "In fact, the opposite, the foreign players who come to England improve and you get that aspect of the game as well. I've seen so many French players complain about the physicality when they arrived in England. I tell them it will take some time but the intensity of the game will make them better players.
"When you look at some players, you cannot say the physicality of the game stops them from displaying their talent," he added. "When I brought [Robert] Pires here he was not an especially physical player but no one could stop him from playing his game. [Marc] Overmars, [Dennis] Bergkamp, nobody could stop them."
Despite his obvious frustration on occasions, Wenger made clear that physicality is one of the things he likes most about English football. "It is a strength of the English game," he said. "The physicality of the English game is one of the attractions of it, as long as the intention is fair from the player who goes into the challenge. That is the most important.
"Sometimes I watch foreign games and after 20 minutes you are bored because every time somebody goes down it is a foul, and you say 'Come on'. That is not football as well. We do not want to lose the strengths and what makes English football attractive, but the intention of the players has to be fair."
The part that Wenger does not like is dangerous tackling, which has hurt his players in the past. "What I regret is when it goes overboard and we lost some players like Eduardo and [Abou] Diaby who paid a high price for that," he said. "It is a fine line, that's why I say it is the intention that counts. If you go a little bit over the ball, how can you tell if the guy did it on purpose or not? It's very difficult.
"It was worse 15 years ago than it is now. Fifteen years ago no one would have spoken about the Andy Carroll challenge [on David de Gea on Wednesday]. Now everything is analysed on TV. Some players complained and then, after they moved away, they missed the English game."
Wojciech Szczesny is set to continue in goal for Arsenal against Fulham on Saturday, with Lukasz Fabianski missing with a cracked rib. "Fabianski is out," Wenger revealed. "He has a crack in his rib that has not moved. That means we have to treat it clinically."
Szczesny, who turned 23 on Thursday - the same day that his Polish team-mate and rival for the goalkeeper's shirt turned 28, had little to do against Everton, but was alert enough when called up.
Wenger was happy with the goalkeeper's response to being dropped – which had brought stinging public criticism from the player's father.
"He had a good performance, I was pleased with his focus," Wenger said.
"He dealt well with the situation that he faced.
"In our job, there is only one way to respond, to practise harder and stronger and show that you are ready for a fight, that is what he did."
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