Wenger admits away form poses Arsenal 'crisis'

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The Independent Football

Ajax may well be Arsenal's opposition in the Champions' League tonight but with the Gunners already confirmed as group winners and through to the knock-out stages in Europe, it was the more roughly hewn talents of Bolton that were still taxing Arsène Wenger yesterday.

In analysing his club's poor away form in the Premiership this season, the Arsenal manager admitted it was a crisis but called the 2-0 defeat at the Reebok Stadium last Saturday a "shock" and an "accident".

Allied to other defeats on the road at Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion, that seems inaccurate, but Wenger still believes Arsenal's championship hopes remain alive.

"Our away form is something of a crisis in championship terms and something we have to address," he said. "You cannot put all our away games into the same bracket. Before, we lost some because they came after an international break where we had many players away and arriving back late. And there were many big injuries at the start of the season.

"I feel Bolton is a bit different. An accident like that can happen. Added to the other [away] games it looks like consistency but in my opinion it was an accident in our season."

Having beaten Wigan in their previous away game, Wenger believed his side had overcome the difficulties presented by such fixtures, but having lost, he feels his squad can recover and still mount a threat to the league leaders Chelsea.

"I feel we need to redress the problem of the weakness we showed at Bolton and we can do that," he said. "I believe this team will surprise you. We are not perfect but we are getting there and I am confident we will redress the problem in the coming games."

For many the summer departure of Patrick Vieira left a hole that has not been filled but Wenger defended his other players' ability to add the bite that the Frenchman used to provide. "I look to the other players for the physical power," Wenger said. "I'll never say you don't miss a player like Vieira but what is important is you have to move on. I think this team has the potential to win the championship."

Arsenal (from): Almunia, Poom, Gilbert, Eboue, Lauren, Touré, Senderos, Larsson, Cygan, Djourou, Flamini, Fabregas, Hleb, Van Persie, Reyes, Owusu-Abeyie, Lupoli, Henry.