Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Wenger: We're no shrinking violets

Arsene Wenger is adamant Arsenal can cope with the Premier League's physical nature

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger maintains his team are no longer "vulnerable" to physical intimidation as they look to cement a place in the top four of the Barclays Premier League.

The Gunners boss was less than impressed by some of the challenges from Everton on Tuesday night. Wenger's current side may not be full of no-nonsense characters, but the Frenchman insists suggestions Arsenal lack players capable of standing up for themselves in the heat of battle are no longer valid.

"I had teams who were not vulnerable to that (physical side), but when we built the stadium here, we were much younger, and of course vulnerable," said Wenger. "(With players like Cesc) Fabregas, at 17 years of age, we were a bit more vulnerable at Stoke than we are today, that is natural."

Wenger, though, has no issue with fair, robust challenges which the French coach feels are "a strength of the English game".

"I don't think it holds players back. In fact, the opposite, the foreign players who come to England improve and you get that aspect of the game as well," he said.

"I have seen so many French players complain about the physicality when they arrived in England. I tell them it will take some time, but the intensity of the game will make them better players.

"It was worse 15 years ago than it is now, back then no-one would have spoken about the (Andy) Carroll challenge (on David De Gea), now everything is analysed on television. Some players complained and then, after they moved away, they missed the English game."

Wenger added: "When you look at some players, you cannot say the physicality of the game stops them from displaying their talent.

"When I brought (Robert) Pires here, he was not especially a physical player, but no-one could stop him from playing his game - (Marc) Overmars, (Dennis) Bergkamp, nobody could stop them. You cannot say it is physical or it is kicking, it is just that the commitment is high and that is what you want."

Wenger, though, knows from painful experience just what the result of poor tackles can be. He said: "What I regret is when it goes overboard and we lost some players like Eduardo and (Abou) Diaby, who paid a high price for that aspect. It is a fine line, that is why I say it is the intention that counts."

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