Wenger: Euro exit can help us

The Gunners crashed out of Europe with a 3-1 defeat at Barcelona in

midweek, a result which quickly followed their Carling Cup final

defeat to Birmingham. A season which again promised so much is in

danger of once more ultimately delivering very little but the

Gunners are still in with a good chance of claiming a domestic

double. Following successive league defeats for United, Wenger’s

men are now just three points behind the Red Devils, who play the

second leg of their Champions League last-16 clash against

Marseille next week and must go to the Emirates Stadium on May 1.

Victory at Old Trafford in Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final clash

would also see the Gunners return to Wembley in April and Wenger

feels not having a such congested fixture list could just work in

their favour. “We will not be overloaded, that’s the advantage of

it,” he said. “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.” Wenger,

though, accepted: “Saturday’s game has big significance of course

as the targets now that we have in front of us are the championship

and FA Cup.” Wenger also insists that Tuesday night’s capitulation

in the Nou Camp should not be taken in isolation. “You have to

analyse this tie in the two games,” he said. “People say that we

did not have a shot in this game, but we had more shots than

Barcelona in the first game and we would have had shots in this

game had it remained 11 versus 11 in the last 30 minutes.” Wenger

also believes his players can take plenty of positives from their

European disappointment. He continued: “Overall they can gain a lot

of confidence, as overall the attitude and quality that we have

shown in the two games was, for me, outstanding in different

departments, offensively and defensively. “The team can gain a lot

of credit and belief as well.” Manuel Almunia will return to

Arsenal’s starting XI on Saturday, with Wojciech Szczesny set to be

sidelined for around six weeks. Almunia had seemed set to leave

Arsenal during the January transfer window after struggling with

form and injury, and Wenger has been impressed with his attitude.

“Manuel Almunia is very professional, [has a] very dignified

attitude and overall he has done very well,” he 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.” Wenger

does not expect any of his senior squad to be happy just warming

the bench, adding: “When I took Jens Lehmann out, who [had] made

only one mistake, and put Almunia in, Lehmann came in the next day

and fought even harder. That’s what I believe our job is about.”