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Page last updated at 12:41 GMT, Thursday, 17 February 2011

Arsenal can complete Barcelona win, says Arsene Wenger


A proud night for Arsenal - Wenger

Arsene Wenger says Barcelona are still favourites to reach the Champions League quarter-finals despite Arsenal's stunning 2-1 win in the first leg.

But the Gunners boss is confident his side can complete victory at the Nou Camp on 8 March after coming from a goal down at the Emirates.

"Barcelona are still favourites," he said. "But we know now we can beat them. We didn't know that last year.

"[The win] gives us a chance to go to Barcelona with belief."

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere echoed the thoughts of his manager.

"It was a great game and a great result," said the 19-year-old England international.

"We showed great character to come back from 1-0 down, especially against Barcelona. They are the best team in the world.


"For 20 minutes, we were chasing and couldn't get the ball off them. We knew that was going to happen. We had to keep our shape defensively, press them and catch them on the counter. We did that and got two great goals in the second half."

Arsenal endeavour to play the same sort of slick passing game as the Spanish champions but have dubbed Barcelona-lite in some quarters after losing 6-3 on aggregate to their opponents in the Champions League last season.

However, this time around the Gunners showed the extra character and belief Wenger says they now possess to hit back after going behind to David Villa's opener.

Robin van Persie beat Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes at his near post from a tight angle before a stunning counter-attack involving Wilshere, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri ended in the latter sliding the ball across for Andrey Arshavin to steer in the winner.

"I am highly delighted. It was a special football night," added Wenger. "The game promised a lot and fulfilled that promise. It was two exceptional teams who tried always to be positive.

"I'm very proud because everybody urged us to play differently to our nature. We can be proud of the result, but more than pride it can strengthen the belief in our philosophy.

"Against Barcelona, you are exposed many times when they have possession but we kept resilient and strong. The problem with their possession is that if you are a fraction late you are in trouble. You have to be tight with the marking and if you don't it is difficult.

"We were prepared mentally to live with that. Usually we have the ball more than our opponents but we knew tonight that 60% of the time we would have to be focused on them."

Winger Theo Walcott said Arsenal had learned from mistakes made last year.

"Barcelona again had so much possession but in the end they didn't create as much as they probably wanted and they deserved," he commented.

"As long as we got a result, it didn't matter how we played. We are so happy and we have got something to play with going into the second leg."

Gunners legend Liam Brady described Wednesday's victory as "one of the greatest nights in Arsenal's history" and said Wenger deserved a huge amount of credit.

"It is a great tribute to Arsene and his philosophy," said the former Republic of Ireland international midfielder, who made more than 300 appearances for Arsenal during the 1970s and is now director of the club's flourishing youth academy.

You can spend £50m on a player but you can't buy team spirit, togetherness and understanding like you saw on Wednesday night

Liam Brady

"He hasn't got involved in the madness of spending £50m on players and silly things like that.

"You can spend £50m on a player but you can't buy team spirit, togetherness and understanding like you saw on Wednesday night.

"You've just got to admire this man, he's one of the most astute managers of all time.

"But he's not only doing wonderful things for the first team. He also helps me enormously in my job because he is prepared to put young players in the side and trust the Arsenal academy.

"The youth team players are obliged to come to home games and it is occasions like we saw on Wednesday that build their dreams.

"They've just seen their 19-year-old mate Jack Wilshere competing with - and at times outshining - Xavi and Iniesta, the two best midfielders in the world.

"Wednesday's game will inspire generations of young Arsenal players."

Both Wilshere and Walcott are confident that Arsenal can go to Spain and get the result the need to take them through to the quarter-finals.

"We know they pass it well so we have to keep our shape defensively and maybe hit them on the counter and get an early goal," said Wilshere.

"We are confident we can do that. We beat them here so we can beat them there as well.

"There is still a job to do. We've got to go to the Nou Camp yet and we know it's going to be hard but we've got something to hold on to now."

Walcott added: "We will go into the game believing we can get the result. We know we can always score goals so if we get at them straight away, shut the fans up and then stop [Lionel] Messi..."

We were the better team but there's still 90 minutes to go and we can save ourselves in that time

Barcelona's David Villa

Barcelona completed 629 passes compared to Arsenal's 299 and had numerous chances to make their dominance count, but coach Pep Guardiola was philosophical afterwards.

"I think we were OK," he said. "We have lost the first leg so we have to win the second leg.

"We controlled the play for most of the match but we know they can play very well positionally. They are very good and very fast when they counter attack.

"If we analyse this result it is not too bad. I think in general I am happy with the performance. But we need to score goals in the second leg. They will attack and we will attack too."

Villa remains convinced Barcelona are well placed to progress.

"We played a good game and created a lot of chances," said the Spain striker. "But we were up against a great team in Arsenal who caught us on two counter-attacks and hurt us.

"We were the better team but there's still 90 minutes to go and we can save ourselves in that time."

Goalkeeper Victor Valdes added: "We had the game under control but they took advantage of their chances well.

"There's still the second leg and we have faith that things will turn out in our favour. It's possible in our stadium. We are confident that it will all work out for us."

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see also
Wenger delighted with 'special night'
16 Feb 11 |  Arsenal
Arsenal 2-1 Barcelona
16 Feb 11 |  Europe
Wednesday football as it happened
16 Feb 11 |  Football
Wednesday's football photos
16 Feb 11 |  Football

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