Premier League

Wenger wants more aggression

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Sun, 20 Jan 2013 09:20:00

Rafa Benitez has written off Chelsea's chances of challenging for this season's Premier League title.

The interim boss made the trophy a target when he replaced Roberto Di Matteo in November, but the midweek draw with Southampton left his side 13 points behind leaders Manchester United.

"In terms of the league, I don't think we can do it," Benitez said ahead of the first of Sunday's two Sky Live games with kick-off at 1:30pm.

"But the Capital One Cup is there, the FA Cup is still open and the Europa League is still open.

"I just have to give the team the confidence that we can win against anyone. If you have that belief it becomes easier.

"The team is very close. We have John Terry and Frank Lampard back from injury. Now we have to be more consistent."

Arsenal travel to Stamford Bridge and Benitez's men will be looking to end their poor home form - having won only one of their seven previous Premier League games at the Bridge.

Arsene Wenger's side have won away at Chelsea more often than any other league club, and Wenger stated earlier this week he was expecting a thrilling showdown.

Not immune to criticism himself, Wenger also commented on Benitez's reproach from Blues fans. He said: "I feel sympathy for every manager until the day I play against him.

"Then the sympathy goes and comes back after the game - not always straight after the game, sometimes it is some time later. We are all in the same position.

"We know we are in a fragile job and that the confidence is very important but it is a job where you have to take care of your own team."

The Gunners head to Chelsea to take on a team against which, last season apart, they had struggled to match in terms of strength on the ball.

Wenger's great Invincibles side never had such problems, with the likes of Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Vieira coming out on top in the duels, his players receiving more than their fare share of red cards since he took over in September 1996.

The French coach believes while Arsenal's new generation have taken their game to another level in terms of finesse, an added edge would not go a miss.

"Maybe we have to go back a little bit, not less technical but a bit more physical and aggressive," said Wenger, who was boosted by the confirmation Theo Walcott had finally signed a contract extension.

"I think that when [referees] see Arsenal on the sheet, they say 'oh fantastic' [to referee them].

"This side are physical players, but we have to restructure the balance of the team a little bit.

"The players have the character to do it. The [likes of] [Jack] Wilshere are technical players, but they are also physical players."

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany was shown a red card in last weekend's 2-0 Premier League victory at Emirates Stadium for a challenge on Wilshere, which referee Mike Dean viewed as leading with both feet off the ground and dangerous.

That decision was subsequently overturned on appeal by the Football Association.

Wenger feels the art of tackling is in danger of being lost.

"Tackling is a technique," he said.

"I don't think that Kompany wanted to hurt Wilshere. I think it was a clumsy tackle, and technically a bad tackle and it can be seen as a red card.

"For me, the tackle facing the player is one leg on the ground, and the other leg is bent, where you can see that you give a pass when you intercept the ball - the guy that jumps in with two legs doesn't know where he finishes.

"I believe that a full-back who tackles and wins the ball back with one leg, and gets up with the ball, it is an art."

Chelsea have struggled for consistency in recent weeks, failing to win any of their three home games this year - which have included two defeats.

Following the 2-2 draw with Southampton on Wednesday night, after his side had blown a two-goal lead, interim manager Rafael Benitez again came in for criticism from some sections of the Stamford Bridge faithful.

With Didier Drogba having left after their European Cup triumph, and the future of long-serving midfielder Frank Lampard uncertain, the Blues are viewed as a club in transition.

Wenger, though, does not feel the regeneration of the squad will have a major impact on Roman Abramovich's plans for continued progress.

"They have the financial potential to rebuild the team, which they are doing," the Arsenal manager said.

"They lost some historical players, like happened to us. It's difficult [to rebuild], but there is still a good cheque book.

"Chelsea have bought great players. They bought Luiz, they bought Hazard, they bought Mata."

Abramovich has a history of wasting no time in making changes at the top, with Roberto di Matteo removed earlier this season despite having won both the FA Cup and Champions League.

Wenger said: "They are so high on a financial planet that you can always get what you need."

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