Pros need not be pals, says Wenger

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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger said Kolo Touré and William Gallas "do not have to go to paradise together" – as long as they continue to do a professional job at the heart of the Arsenal defence.

The duo have forged a formidable central defensive pairing in the past few months, with the goal conceded against Roma in the midweek Champions League clash – due to sloppy play from both men – only the fifth by the team in the previous 15 games. Nevertheless, Ivory Coast international Touré admits the pair will never be close off the field.

However, the Arsenal manager maintained he was more than happy with Touré's and Gallas's approach to the team game. "What is important is that when you are professionals, you play together," Wenger said. "To be professional is to do what it takes for your team to be successful, not more than that – it does not mean that you go to paradise together. You have big examples of players who did not get on very well, but that does not mean they cannot play together.

"In football, you can take a Russian and an American at the highest period of tension, and they can play very well together because sport demands the analysis of a situation in a fraction of a second and both can have that even if they do not speak. The most important thing is the big players respect the game. They put the respect for the game at a higher level than any other situation – if the game needs me to give you the ball now, even if I do not like you, then I give you the ball."

There were certainly no signs of disharmony in the dressing room as the cosmopolitan Gunners celebrated their dramatic penalty shoot-out win over Roma in the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday which secured a place in the quarter-finals. Other than the loss of striker Eduardo with a minor groin problem, Wenger reported nothing more than a "few tired muscles" as his squad prepare for today's visit of relegation battlers Blackburn.

Russian midfielder Andrei Arshavin is available after being cup-tied in the Champions League, with the Gunners looking to continue their pursuit of Aston Villa, who head into this weekend's games with a three-point lead.

Wenger is confident his squad have shown they can deal with anything which is thrown at them. "I take more into account their style of play than the fact Blackburn are physical – we can cope with the physical demands and we showed that on Wednesday night," he said. "It is more down to the fact Blackburn will go more direct, and we have to take that into consideration."

Arsenal are unbeaten in the Premier League since the end of November but Wenger knows his men must avoid another goalless draw today following three successive Premier League stalemates at Emirates Stadium. "We want to transform our home draws into wins, and we have a good opportunity to do that," he said. "It is important that no matter what Blackburn do we dictate our game and dominate in the way we love to play football. If we are consistent, then we will be ahead of Villa at the end.

"The hunger is in the squad and I am impressed how they fight against the odds. We have a very strong potential and we can show that from now until the end of the season."

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