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Feb 4, 2013

Wenger: Arsenal getting tougher

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger claimed his side are ready to stand up to their more physical rivals in the Premier League after they ground out a 1-0 win against Stoke on Saturday.

• Blog: Wilshere giving Gunners bite

Wenger's side have often come up short when they have been pressed by opponents using a physical approach, yet the Arsenal boss believes their patient approach to uncorking Stoke at Emirates Stadium was a sign of a growing maturity in his side.

"In England, you have to deal with all types of football without losing your qualities in how you want to play," Wenger told the Arsenal website. "It's not always easy, because if you have a team of 10 Santi Cazorla's, technically you would be very good, but you would struggle against a team like Stoke.

"We are a bit more mature now and dealt with the Stoke game plan well. In the past, we have been a bit younger and inexperienced defensive, but you could see that in (Bacary) Sagna, Nacho (Monreal), (Laurent) Koscielny and (Per) Mertesacker, we have some experience and stature there. We are not small at the back any more."

The cynics would argue that Arsenal's defensive performance against Liverpool last Wednesday suggests they still have plenty of work to do on their back-line, but Wenger was determined to carry a positive tone after his side got back to winning ways against Stoke.

His belief that his defence have toughened up to the challenges they face in the Premier League is backed up by a suggestion that in-form forward Theo Walcott is also learning to shrug off the more rugged tactics teams chose to employ in a bid to halt his progress.

Walcott rode some heavy tackles to turn in a fine display against Stoke on Saturday and his manager has claimed the 23-year-old is starting to come to terms with the attention he tends to attract.

"What people forget is that Theo does everything at 100mph, so every time you get hit it hurts you more than if you are slow," added Wenger.

"He plays at high pace, but he has learnt to escape sometimes and he imposes himself more. He uses his body better now. He is maturing well."

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