Paul Lambert wary of Arsenal backlash


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The Independent Football

Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert has branded criticism of Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger as "over the top" and warned his side to expect a backlash in tomorrow's encounter with the Gunners at the Emirates Stadium.

Wenger has been under the microscope after the shock FA Cup setback against Blackburn and the 3-1 first leg home defeat against Bayern Munich in the Champions League last-16 in mid-week.

Now Villa will be looking to take advantage of the Gunners' plight and bolster their chances of Barclays Premier League survival.

But Lambert is full of admiration for what Wenger has achieved in 16 seasons with Arsenal.

He said: "The level of criticism towards Arsene Wenger is a bit over the top.

"He's been there 16 years and he's just missed out on winning the Champions League against Barcelona. He's won the Premier League several times, he's won the FA Cup several times.

"If that's 'you don't know what you're doing' then I think there's something not right there, for what he's achieved is phenomenal.

"The Blackburn defeat would have been disappointing but is it a disgrace to lose to Bayern? The way they are performing and playing, no.

"It didn't surprise me Bayern beat them because of what they are doing in their own league. I think they are a right good team.

"You are talking about a team which lost on penalties in the Champions League final and potentially could go and get there again."

Lambert will adopt a positive approach to tomorrow's game given the fire-power at his disposal via the likes of Christian Benteke, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Charles N'Zogbia and Andreas Weimann.

He said: "You always know it's possible there might be a backlash from Arsenal because the players they have are really top players.

"I don't know if there is ever a good time to play them because of the stature of the club and the players they have.

"But we'll give it a go on the front foot down there, give it a right good go.

"Benteke's in good form at the moment, Agbonlahor is fit again, Weimann and N'Zogbia are playing their part. The four of them have been playing very well of late.

"We're going to have to put a right shift in, that's for sure. You don't get anything if you don't put a shift in. But we're playing with confidence at the minute."

Lambert believes Benteke will remain with the midlands club if they retain their Premier League status.

Benteke has scored 15 goals since his £8 million summer move from Genk and established himself in the Belgian side.

The 22-year-old has been linked already with possible moves to Arsenal as well as Tottenham and Manchester City.

But Lambert has brushed off the speculation and said: "Christian is playing very well for us and that's the main thing.

"It doesn't concern me who he is linked with and who he is not linked with.

"It proves he's doing well for me and doing well for himself. That doesn't interest me, what other people think.

"Will Benteke stay if Villa stay up?

"Yes. I don't have a problem with that at all. I'm pretty sure, with Christian being the way he is. We'll have a good chat at certain times.

"I don't read the headlines. I just get told. Listen as far as I'm concerned, the guy is here and he isn't going anywhere until I say so or not really. That's the bottom line."