Belfast Telegraph

Arshavin has no case for Arsenal defence

Andrei Arshavin may have been part of the Russian delegation that convinced Fifa to give them the right to host the 2018 World Cup finals, but the Arsenal man showed precious little diplomacy yesterday when he bluntly accused his team's defence of failing this season.

Arsenal must win tonight against Partizan Belgrade to be certain of a place in the Champions League knockout stages and although they could potentially progress with a defeat that would be contingent on Braga also losing to Shakhtar Donetsk. Arsenal have to match Braga's result in order to be sure of progressing.

Arshavin said: “We struggle all the time in defence. We have to score more than we concede. That's it. Of course we try to improve but we can't.

“We don't blame our defenders. Sometimes I can't run (track-back) and that's why sometimes I let my opposingdefenders make the cross and the forward scores.

“Defending doesn't always depend on the defenders. We must improve as a team on our defending. Normally I can't go past the Arsenal]defenders in training.

French centre-back Laurent Koscielny, who has had an indifferent season, is back in contention to start tonight after suffering a blow to his head during the win over Fulham on Saturday.

There was good news for Arsenal when Arsene Wenger announced that both Cesc Fabregas and Abou Diaby were back training yesterday and have a small chance of playing against Manchester United on Monday night.

Having scored 14 goals in their first two Champions League group games, conceding just two, Arsenal have let in four in their two subsequent defeats away at Shakhtar and Braga. Arshavin said that he was convinced the team would finish second in their group, opening up the possibility that they could draw Barcelona or Real Madrid in the next round.

He said: “We lost two games and now we have to win to get second., but what can you do? We just have to win and now we will see what the draw will give us. We have no chance of finishing top. I think Shakhtar will be first.”

Johan Djourou’s thigh problem cannot be risked, means Wenger has no option but to stick with Koscielny and Sebastian Squillaci in central defence.

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