Gunners have ammo to fire imagination
Arsene Wenger has all but conceded any possibility of the Premier League title but still believes the team has a realistic chance of silverware in the Champions League and FA Cup.Updated: Apr 06, 2009 23:07 IST
Arsene Wenger has all but conceded any possibility of the Premier League title but still believes the team has a realistic chance of silverware in the Champions League and FA Cup. As a rejuvenated Arsenal headed for Villarreal and Tuesday’s Champions League quarterfinal first leg, Wenger was in buoyant mood following Saturday’s demolition of Manchester City which extended their unbeaten run in the Premier League to 17 matches.
“You cannot win the championship if you lose five of your first 14 games,” he said after Arsenal’s 2-0 victory.
“But the team is young and we have come through it, and we are not the same team now as we were in August and September. There’s a lightness back in the team, we are playing without the handbrake and we go into this Champions League game in a good state of mind, very focussed, full of belief and commitment. I still believe this season can be a very successful one for us.”
Arsenal’s win consolidated fourth place in the race for next season’s Champions League spots, but as important as the three points was the return from long-term injuries of midfielder Cesc Fabregas and striker Emmanuel Adebayor.
Fabregas, back in the side for the first time since December after recovering from a knee injury, ran the match in midfield and made both goals for Adebayor, returning after 10 games out with a hamstring injury.
Winger Theo Walcott, also returning to the starting lineup after injury, should be fit to face the Spaniards when Arsenal play their 200th match in European competition.
Dutchman Robin van Persie, injured while on international duty for the Netherlands last week, is more unlikely to play but has not been completely ruled out while Eduardo and Abou Diaby remain on the injured list. Andrei Arshavin, who signed from Zenit St Petersburg in the winter transfers is ineligible after playing for the Russian side in the UEFA Cup earlier this season.
Villarreal are still reeling from their miserable 3-0 league defeat at Almeria on Saturday, that was made all the worse by the injury to winger Santi Cazorla. A fractured shin bone has put the Spain international out for the rest of the season. “Cazorla is a key figure for us, but we have a large squad and whoever steps in in his place I am sure will do well. We will try to beat Arsenal for him,” defender Diego Godin said.
First Published: Apr 04, 2009 22:36 IST