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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Dec 13, 2006

Wenger hails 'physically stronger' Gunners

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is convinced his side have toughened up since dropping vital points on the road last season - and proved it at the weekend by drawing at champions Chelsea.

The Gunners will move into third place in the Premiership with a win at Wigan tonight having drawn 1-1 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Wenger was impressed by the way certain recent recruits coped with the physical challenge on that occasion, with striker Emmanuel Adebayor singled out as an example.

He said: 'I feel we have matured and we are physically stronger. You could see that at Chelsea where with Adebayor we could fight in areas where last year we were dominated. This year we are not.

'Now we have to show we can do it at Wigan as well. It would be pretentious to go to Wigan and call it an easier game because the points are just as important, if not more, than from games against Chelsea and Manchester United.'

Arsenal will still kick off 10 points behind second-placed Chelsea, who take on Newcastle at the same time, and are 18 points adrift of leaders Manchester United.

Defeats at Bolton - a perennial venue of disappointment for the Gunners - and Fulham have been particularly costly but Wenger insists the set of fixtures his side have been forced to play lately have been tougher than those of Chelsea.

He said: 'We played 10 weeks on the trot, three games a week and that is difficult for anybody, young or old.

'I would love to see Chelsea playing Tottenham, going away to Porto and then playing against us on Sunday with just one game.

'We lost at Fulham because we were physically flat. When you play three games a week for so many weeks you sometimes have a game or two when you are not so sharp.

'We have had a bad coincidence with the fixtures this year.'

Centre-back Kolo Toure is the only addition to the squad with the Ivory Coast international having been suspended for the Chelsea game.

Skipper Thierry Henry is likely to be out until the new year because of a hamstring problem, although his neck problem is no longer troubling him.

Wenger is hopeful midfielder Tomas Rosicky (hamstring) and defender William Gallas (thigh) might return for the home game with Portsmouth on Saturday.

He said: 'Rosicky looks very, very promising and has a small, small chance for the weekend. Gallas too, maybe.'