Football

Wenger: Gunners ready to fire

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Arsene Wenger has warned Manchester United his Arsenal team are "a different animal" to the side that went out of Europe at the hands of Liverpool last season.

Arsenal face United in Wednesday night's Champions League semi-final first leg at Old Trafford in the knowledge they have twice gone out to English opposition in the knock-out stages of Europe's top club competition - after losing to Chelsea at the quarter-final stage in 2004.

The Arsenal manager said: "The team has matured a lot because I believe they are mentally strong and very determined."

He added: "Maybe, because we have gone through a bad start to the season and a difficult period, it helped the team who is very young to grow. I think this team is a different animal to last year, mentally, especially."

Wenger has some selection worries with Robin van Persie injured and Andrey Arshavin ineligible but it will be in defence where his concerns are greatest. Left-back Kieran Gibbs is a doubt with an ankle problem, as is his likely replacement Mikael Silvestre, who has a back complaint.

With Gael Clichy out of the picture, 18-year-old Gibbs' fitness could prove crucial given he will be up against Cristiano Ronaldo. Wenger's other option would be to switch Bacary Sagna from right-back.

Wenger insisted, however, he would not focus on stopping Ronaldo, saying: "Of course we will try to keep Ronaldo quiet but, if you only focus on him, somebody else will be dangerous.

"You can forget Manchester United have 11 good players all of whom can be a problem to us. Let's just focus on playing well."

European football's top prize has so far eluded manager and club and Wenger has challenged his group of talented young players to finally fulfil their potential.

He said: "This is the moment we have been waiting for. We have tried to build our team in a different way. It is not better or worse, we have just built a young team because we wanted to develop a special way of playing and a special spirit."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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Topics:
Arsenal
Robin Van Persie
Andrey Arshavin
European News
Kieran Gibbs
Football
Mikael Silvestre
Chelsea
Premier League
UEFA Champions League
Manchester United
Cristiano Ronaldo
Bacary Sagna
Gael Clichy
Liverpool

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