Defiant Wenger still has eye on the double

Arsene Wenger bullishly insisted that Arsenal would take the next step towards a league and European Cup double by beating Liverpool in their Champions League quarterfinal second leg at Anfield on Tuesday.

Wenger’s side arrive on Merseyside having failed to overcome Rafael Benitez’s side in the first leg when Dirk Kuyt’s close-range effort secured an invaluable away goal in a 1-1 draw.

That scoreline was repeated when the two sides met four days later in a league clash, a result that dented Arsenal’s hopes of closing the six-point gap on Premier League leaders Manchester United.

To progress into the last four, Arsenal must score at least once on Tuesday evening and, having triumphed only twice in their previous eleven games, must rediscover the winning habit that appears to have deserted them in the last two months.

Wenger, though, remains upbeat that his side can reverse their recent dip in form and — their league prospects having been helped by United’s failure to beat Middlesbrough — continue their double bid for silverware.

”You have to accept you might lose, but what is important is that you can believe you can win,” Wenger said. ”But if I didn’t believe we could win the Champions League, I wouldn’t be sitting here.

”We have belief we can win everywhere in the world. We’ll try to play the game to win it rather than go to penalties. Patience may be needed. I’d like to score early goals, as many as we can, but if we need to be patient, we will be.”

Arsenal face United on Sunday for the first of their five remaining league games and Wenger warned nothing less than victory will do if they are to maintain their title hopes.

”I believe we can do it,” he added. ”We did have a dip recently, it’s true. We can’t deny that. But football is strange sometimes. We feel as well that we dropped a few points, but we’ve been consistent since the beginning of the season.

”So it’s possible we can win the last five games. Of course, I said that before the Liverpool game as well, but I said five games and one draw would make it. It is compulsory that we win at Old Trafford.

”I still believe we will finish champions in this league. The result helped a lot. If they’d won [Manchester United], I’d have thought we couldn’t [win the league] but, now, I still believe we’ll do it.”

Whatever the outcome of Arsenal’s season, Wenger insists his young side will get even better over the next two years, and responded forcefully to Benitez’s claim that the Frenchman couldn’t use the relative inexperience of his side as an excuse for failure.

Wenger added: ”We have played in the final. We are young, still very young. You cannot convince me otherwise. Adebayor is young, Cesc Fabregas. I cannot say they’re old, I’m sorry. They have experience, but they’re young. They’ll be better in two or three more years because they’ll be even more experienced.” — Sapa-AFP

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