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Jan 20, 2013

Wenger: We must be aggressive

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has urged his players to become "more physical and aggressive" ahead of their trip to Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

• Preview: Chelsea v Arsenal
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The Gunners, hoping to close the gap on the top four, face a Chelsea side still desperate to shirk their poor home record under Rafa Benitez.

Coming up against a strong defence in the Blues, Wenger believes Arsenal need to rediscover the physical presence of the club's Invincibles side from 2003-04.

"Maybe we have to go back a little bit, not less technical but a bit more physical and aggressive," Wenger said. "I think that when [referees] see Arsenal on the sheet, they say 'oh fantastic' [to referee them].

"This side are physical players, but we have to restructure the balance of the team a little bit. The players have the character to do it. The [likes of] [Jack] Wilshere are technical players, but they are also physical players."

Responding to Manchester City's physical approach which allowed the champions to outplay the Gunners last weekend, Wenger claims that defenders should not be afraid to tackle after Vincent Kompany was sent off for a strong challenge on Wilshere.

"Tackling is a technique," he said. "I don't think that Kompany wanted to hurt Wilshere. I think it was a clumsy tackle, and technically a bad tackle and it can be seen as a red card.

"For me, the tackle facing the player is one leg on the ground, and the other leg is bent, where you can see that you give a pass when you intercept the ball - the guy that jumps in with two legs doesn't know where he finishes.

"I believe that a full-back who tackles and wins the ball back with one leg, and gets up with the ball, it is an art."

Gunners defender Per Mertesacker will be eager to prove himself against Chelsea after admitting to cautious play in the defeat to City.

"If you want to be in the top four you have to compete with Chelsea, Man City, Man United and Tottenham," he said. "These teams are in this zone. We need to win against those four as much as we can - it is a good point to show how we are.

"We need our character on Sunday. That is the most important thing. In the second half against Manchester City, we showed our character, which was much better than the first half.

"We were a bit scared against Man City from the beginning. We were not that confident. The second half was much better. With a bit of luck we could have scored in two or three situations."

The German is confident Arsenal will be able to repeat last season's thrilling 5-3 win at the Bridge if they put the pressure on early.

"We have a good squad. Good young players and experienced players," he said. "We have a good balance. But everybody has to stick together.

"We can go to Chelsea with optimism. We showed last season that we can go and win there. We proved we can score a lot of goals away from home. But we have to show our confidence.

"We're a good squad when we put out opponents under pressure. We are always dangerous. That must be our target at Chelsea as well. Let's see what we can do. It's a busy week and everyone is playing a lot. Let's show our ability and character at Chelsea."

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.

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