Premier League

Wenger: We can handle Chelsea power

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Arsene Wenger maintains Arsenal have the technical quality to avoid being out-muscled by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon.

The Gunners head to west London on Sunday with a poor record against the Blues since being deposed as the dominant force in English football.

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Arsenal have achieved just two wins from the previous 17 meetings - a run which has included defeats in the 2007 Carling Cup final and an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley in 2009.

Indeed, Carlo Ancelotti's men easily beat Arsenal both home and away last season, with Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba taking his personal tally to 12 goals in 10 games against Wenger's team.

Wenger may be without captain Cesc Fabregas because of injury, along with the likes of centre-half Thomas Vermaelen, first-choice goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, forwards Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie, but the Arsenal manager insists his young squad have enough talent to overcome whatever Chelsea throw at them.

"What for you is physical strength? How can you explain Spain won the World Cup and Barcelona beat Chelsea in the Champions League?" Wenger asked.

"Football is not only down to physique. It is down to intelligence, technique, mobility.

"There is not one way. That is what makes it interesting."

With Vermaelen still sidelined by an Achilles problem picked up during the last international break, new centre-back pairing Sebastien Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny will aim to shackle Drogba.

However, Wenger - who had scouted Drogba in the striker's Guingamp days - maintained: "I feel we should not make an obsession of one player of Chelsea because they have a few players who can score goals against us.

"What is important is that we had the ball, that we dominate the game and that we are efficient defensively.

"Nothing is for ever, so we can stop it."

Arsenal suffered a shock home defeat to West Brom in last weekend's Barclays Premier League match.

Another loss at Chelsea - themselves beaten last week at Manchester City - and Arsenal would be seven points adrift, plus potentially out of the top four should other results go against them tomorrow.

While Wenger knows nothing will be decided on Sunday, he concedes the clashes between the leading contenders are always "vital".

"The only team I have seen win the Premier League without winning the big games is Manchester United," he said.

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  • Who will win on Sunday?
    • Chelsea
    • Arsenal
    • A draw

"It is vitally important to win the big games."

Wenger added: "It is easier to play Chelsea on Sunday when they have lost two games than two weeks ago, that is for sure.

"Every defeat makes you just a fraction smaller."

While left-back Kieran Gibbs has been ruled out of the forthcoming internationals because of a calf injury, 18-year-old midfielder Jack Wilshere is set to feature for England Under-21s at Norwich next Friday night, and could then feature for the senior squad in the Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro in the following week.

Wenger may be less than impressed at that likely outcome, but he expects Wilshere will soon be a permanent fixture in the senior England party.

"They have selected him provisionally for the Under-21s, but I would not be surprised if they move him to the first team," said Wenger, who was unhappy with the treatment of Walcott with the England Under-21s in the 2009 European Championship finals.

"There is always a little battle inside the FA between the Under-21s and the first team when the Under-21s have big games.

"They say, 'If you do not play Jack Wilshere in the starting line-up, leave him to me to play for the Under-21s'.

"That is what happened to us [with Walcott], but they put him on the bench with the Under-21s."

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