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By ESPN Staff

Wenger thrilled as Gunners head into UCL draw

Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal passed a 'big mental test' by giving the perfect response to their critics with a comprehensive demolition of Steve McClaren's FC Twente to secure a place in Friday's draw for the Champions League group stage.

The Gunners - who were already leading 2-0 from the first leg in Holland - bounced back from a lacklustre display in the Barclays Premier League defeat at Fulham on Saturday to dominate the outclassed Dutch side from kick-off.

French winger Samir Nasri - who was sick at half-time and had to be replaced - put the home side ahead on 27 minutes, before captain William Gallas went some way to atone for his defensive error at Craven Cottage with a second which killed off the tie as a contest just after the restart.

The best, though, was yet to come when England hopeful Theo Walcott - watched by Fabio Capello - got the goal his all-action display merited with a late tap in from Nicklas Bendtner making it a miserable return home for former national-team head coach McClaren.

Arsenal, though, will now take a renewed confidence into the group stages for the 11th successive campaign.

Wenger said: 'We want to play with the best and to do that, we had to qualify for the group stage. It was a big mental test.

'The response was clear - togetherness, focus and efficiency.

'The whole team was sharper and physically much better than on Saturday and that is why it made it easier.'

Midfielder Cesc Fabregas was back in the starting XI last night following a hamstring problem.

Wenger said: 'He brings calm and confidence to the side and overall we had a good balance in the side.

'Cesc could have stayed on, he always wants to play, but he was probably more disappointed that they did not have a go at us.'

Wenger also hailed the performance of Walcott, who would have done his international ambitions no harm at all with a sublime finish after a positive run.

'I have always said we have to be patient with him', observed the Arsenal manager.

'I felt he can be decisive in any game against anybody, if we can get him in.

'He has improved his first touch and his link-up play, which was vital for his progression.

'But the way he finished his goal, you cannot teach that, he has that naturally.'

Wenger hopes to add at least one new player to his squad before the transfer window closes next week, most probably a midfielder.

However, the Arsenal manager accepted it is not proving a straightforward process.

He said: 'You can see many transfers announced in the media every day - but it takes a lot of time and does not always happen.'

For McClaren, it is now all about maintaining Twente's progress in the Dutch league and building a European campaign in the UEFA Cup.

The former England manager said: 'I was sat here yesterday and they were talking about a crisis at Arsenal. Someone said it was the best time to play them after they lost to Fulham, but it was the worst time.

'We are hurt and disappointed. It's not how we expect Twente to play. We must take that anger into Saturday's match when the season starts.

'Arsenal are further on than us. They have played Premier League games and it showed. They were fitter and stronger than they were two weeks ago.

'We played with belief and competed with them in the first leg. We didn't do that today.

'It's been a great experience for the players. They are a young team and they need these experiences to learn.

'We are in the UEFA Cup, the season starts on Saturday and there is still a lot to play for.'

McClaren added: 'Who knows if Arsenal can win it. It is a long hard competition, but why not?'


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