Belfast Telegraph

Wenger’s positive spin on Nou Camp nightmare

Arsene Wenger feels Arsenal's Champions League exit against Barcelona now means his squad will not be “overloaded” as they aim to beat Manchester United to the domestic double.

The Gunners crashed out of Europe to the Spanish champions for the second successive season at the Nou Camp, where Wenger was left in a rage and on a UEFA charge following the decision of Swiss referee Massimo Busacca to dismiss striker Robin van Persie for shooting at goal just a second after the whistle for offside.

Now, a season which promised so much is in danger of, once more, delivering very little however Arsenal still hold destiny in their own hands.

Following successive league defeats for United, Wenger's men are now just three points behind the Red Devils, who go to the Emirates Stadium on May 1.

Victory at Old Trafford in today’s FA Cup quarter-final clash would see the Gunners return to Wembley in April and stay on course to clinch what would certainly be a hard-earned double.

“We will not be overloaded, that's the advantage of it,” said Wenger. “We want to deal well with the two psychological blows that we had recently and that's our purpose. If we manage to do that then it will be advantage.

“We need to keep the confidence level high by keeping the results going that we have achieved recently.

“Since November, I feel this team has taken off.

“While in the last month we have lost the Carling Cup final and gone out of the Champions League, but if you had a global view of the last three months then you had every reason to be optimistic.”

Manuel Almunia will return to the starting XI, with Wojciech Szczesny set to be sidelined for around six weeks as Wenger looks for emergency goalkeeper cover.

Almunia had seemed set to leave in transfer window after struggling with form and injury, but has impressed Wenger with his attitude.

“Manuel Almunia is very professional, [has a] very dignified attitude and overall he has done very well,” the Arsenal boss said.

“Yes, he has done quite well when he came on [against Barcelona] and was quite busy in the final part of the game and he did very well.”

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