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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr 5, 2006

Wenger buoyant after booking date with Villarreal

Arsene Wenger was in philosophical mood after his young Arsenal side progressed to the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time in the club's history.

It was the end result rather than the performance which was important, with Wenger now preparing his squad for a semi-final date with Spanish side Villarreal.

The Arsenal boss declared: 'I felt that overall we controlled the game well - as long as Juve did not score the game was not really on because we did not need to come out.

'The final turning point was, when we were under pressure, Nedved was sent off - then the game was over.'

Wenger continued: 'We missed chances as well, which would have killed the game off. We also had put doubt in Juve's mind in the first leg and they never really recovered from that.'

Arsenal have never before been into the semi-finals of Europe's elite club competition.

Wenger added: 'I am happy for the club and the players because every year we were expected to do well in the Champions League, but were not there in the final four.

'This year nobody expected us to be there and we are there. We have been in positions which were easier to get through before and did not - but this year we have.'

Wenger quipped: 'In the end maybe people felt I was the handicap, so I am relieved for that. Now we have a big appetite and want to play well against Villarreal.

'You are in the semi-final, with two unexpected teams. It will be a 50-50 game, maybe the media will put us under a bit more pressure than before, but for me that will not be a problem.'

Wenger felt in the past, their drive for continued domestic success had been detrimental to Arsenal's European aspirations.

'I have felt for years that we left a lot of strength in England, by combining the FA Cup and (league) championship, that we missed out a bit in the Champions League.

'It looks like we were bit lucky because we did not play (before Real Madrid) as we were out of the FA Cup, then did not play at Portsmouth (before Juventus, because the match was postponed) - so I will see what we can do before Villarreal!'

Juve coach Fabio Capello, meanwhile, was left to reflect on what might have been.

'It was a very difficult and aggressive match,' the Italian said. 'They were dangerous on the counter-attack, and in the second half, we created a lot but were not able to score.

'We played well, but came up against an exceptional opponent.'

Capello was annoyed by the negative attitude given out from some sections of the home support at the Stadio delle Alpi, which he described as 'masochistic'.

However, the Italian feels Arsenal now have a strong chance to win the competition.

'If they keep in such good physical shape, then they will be very difficult to beat,' he said.

Cesc Fabregas, the undoubted star of the first leg at Highbury, was hugely impressed by the efforts of Arsenal's back four, who made it eight straight clean sheets in the Champions League after their Turin shut-out.

The 18-year-old told Sky Sports: 'We are strong. We have shown everyone that defensively, even if there are some players that are young and not in their (usual) position, they played fantastically once again.

'They deserve all the credit in the world because it is not easy to play long balls against a team like Juventus in (the Stadio) delle Alpi and they have shown great character. I think they deserve a 10 today.

'We had six or seven chances, but of course they had their chances as well. But we knew how to play them and I think we deserved the qualification.'

Speaking about the youthful look to the Gunners line-up, the Spaniard added: 'It is difficult for us when you start playing all together in the team in the same year. But we are playing with the right attitude and the right character and it is excellent.'

Asked whether semi-final opponents Villarreal were beatable, he said: 'Everyone is beatable. They (Villarreal) have to think the same thing about us, but we will try to play with the same attitude, try to play the ball around - that is what we like - and then we will see what happens.

'But I think the game will be a difficult game, they play in a small stadium. But first we have to be focused on Manchester United on Sunday, that will be a very tough game.

'At the moment we are very happy with the way we are playing and we are not scared about anything. We just want to keep going and keep winning things.'