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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Dec 9, 2006

Wenger thanks Cole for his contribution

Arsene Wenger insists Ashley Cole deserves 'respect' for his contribution to Arsenal as the Chelsea left-back prepares to face his former club for the first time.

Cole will receive a hostile reception from visiting fans at Stamford Bridge tomorrow in response to his transfer deadline day defection to the Gunners' capital rivals.

The 25-year-old further antagonised Arsenal fans by heavily criticising his former club in his autobiography and police have pledged to eject supporters if their abuse is deemed unacceptable.

Wenger has attempted to soothe tensions by highlighting the role Cole played in the north London side's success and the Frenchman maintains he does not resent the left-back's departure.

'My relationship with Ashley is okay. He has gone to Chelsea in special circumstances that have been talked about a lot,' said the Gunners boss.

'But don't forget he did well at this club and you must respect that. In the end, he got the move to Chelsea he wanted.

'We want him to continue his career in a decent way and go as far as he can, which I'm sure he will. I'm sure he will do. On our side we respect what he's done for the club.

'We already appreciate what he has done for the club and what the club has done for him, but sometimes you have disagreements with people.

'In the end, he wanted to leave but that doesn't make me stop thinking he wasn't right for us.

'I was prepared to lose him. I gave him the authorisation to leave one year before the end. I knew he would go.'

Arsenal trail Premiership leaders Manchester United by 16 points and are 10 adrift of Chelsea.

But Wenger refuses to concede defeat in the title race and looks to the 1-0 victory over United at Old Trafford in September for inspiration ahead of tomorrow's clash.

'At the moment, I want to win the Premiership and tomorrow is a good chance to reduce the gap between us and Chelsea. It is up to us to do that,' he said.

'It's always difficult to win. I would enjoy it if we won it and I would give everything for us to do that.

'The next game is Chelsea and it's a good opportunity to show what we can do. We have done well in the big games until now.

'This is an opportunity for us to show we have the character and the quality. I trust my players to deliver something special on Sunday.'

Arsenal have lost ground to United and Chelsea since winning their last Premiership title in 2004 but Wenger insists his current squad is ready to 'take off'.

'You can only go with the table so maybe we have regressed a little bit but we have rebuilt and we have huge potential,' he said.

'We got to the final of the Champions League without losing a game and we had a good run after Christmas. The team is ready to take off again.'

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