Lauren stresses need for defensive consistency

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The Independent Football

Life in London with his wife and young daughter is good, and summer has not been ruined by the prospect of either his full-back partner Ashley Cole or the club captain Patrick Vieira departing.

Nor has the admirably consistent Lauren been wearing black because another London club took away Arsenal's Premiership title. "To finish second and play in the Champions' League and win the FA Cup is not really a bad season," he said. "It's not easy to win every year a trophy. We know that with the quality in the squad we can improve on what we have done in the Champions' League, and cut the gap, because it's too many points behind Chelsea."

Arsenal did manage to hold Jose Mourinho's side in both meetings last season and the teams will meet again three weeks today in the Community Shield at Cardiff. Speaking before confirmation of Vieira's departure, Lauren admitted: "Chelsea were the better team, consistent in all the parts. And they won the Premier League so we had to congratulate them. We know that our problem has maybe been our inconsistency defensively, as a team. So that's why we have lost so many points. But we did play many good games and we want to win the League again."

While expressing support for Cole, whom he never thought would join Chelsea or anyone else, Lauren does not involve himself in the ramifications of transfers or comparative financial strength. He is one of those simple souls who believe managers manage and players play: "It's not down to us, the players. I think it's down to the clubs. Our commitment as players is to focus on what we do every day in the training ground and try to win the next match."

Perhaps that attitude is attributable to a background of taking personal responsibility whatever the circumstances, developed in his extraordinary youth with 14 brothers sharing two small flats in Seville, where the family had moved from his birthplace of Cameroon.

Earlier his parents had fled from Equatorial Guinea, his father having escaped from prison just before being shot as a political dissident; later they would separate, making life all the more difficult for the young brood before Lauren made his way as a footballer with Seville, Levante and Real Mallorca (helping to beat Chelsea in the 1999 European Cup-Winners' Cup semi-final).

Considering himself to be esentially Spanish, despite winning an Olympic gold medal and appearing at two World Cups for Cameroon, he was strongly linked with Real Madrid last Christmas, but signed a new two-year contract at Highbury instead. "I've been here five years and I've won two Premier Leagues, two FA Cups. And I've played for the last five years in the Champions' League, which is not easy for a club to do. Always people expect more, it's normal. I still think Arsenal are one of the best teams in the world."

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