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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Feb 7, 2009

Wenger weighing up Arshavin inclusion

Arsene Wenger insists his Arsenal team have enough quality to overcome the challenge of rivals Tottenham Hotspur in Sunday's north London derby at White Hart Lane, regardless of whether new signing Andrei Arshavin makes his debut or not.

The Russia playmaker has now received international clearance following his protracted transfer from Zenit St Petersburg and was scheduled to return to England and join up with the squad ahead of the Spurs clash.

However, given Arshavin has not played a competitive match since the end of the Russian Premier League season in late November, Wenger may hold off on including the playmaker for such a high-profile encounter.

Nevertheless, the Gunners boss insists his team - currently unbeaten in 10 league games, but still outside the top four - can secure a positive result.

"We have what it takes, without Arshavin," Wenger declared.

"The team is maturing - it's a very young team - we have shown that against Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea. This team can compete with anybody."

Wenger accepts Arshavin could need a bit more time to adjust to his new surroundings.

"I believe he is talented, intelligent and motivated. When you have these things together, you always have a chance to make an impact, but you have to give him time as well," the Arsenal manager said.

"He is not fit at the moment because he had only 10 days' preparation after a long break.

"I will have reservations [about playing him], yes because the worst thing for a player is not being ready to play in a game of that intensity, or getting injured before having kicked a ball for the team.

"I will see what kind of shape he is in to see if he will be involved in the squad or not. We are not in a hurry with him."

Wenger knows the importance which tomorrow's match holds as the rivals look for crucial points in their ambitions at opposite ends of the Premier League table.

"It is easy to analyse that it is a must-win game for both sides for different reasons - one team because they are at the bottom and us because we want to get closer to the top," he said.

"I believe we are in a good way - we have created a momentum.

"We are more solid, we look determined and we are - they are qualities that will be needed in a derby."

The move to land Wenger's number one target went right to the wire, with official confirmation of the deal being pushed through ahead of the deadline not coming until almost a day after the window had closed.

Wenger maintains all the correct procedures had been followed.

"It was done in the last minute, but regularly. We have nothing to hide," he said.

"We just did the deal very late in the afternoon, sent it to the Premier League and they ratified it.

"If the deal was not right we would have cancelled the transfer and accepted it. We have done nothing wrong.

"In every transfer window you have at least 10 or 15 clubs who have to wait until the next morning usually to get agreement from the Premier League.

"We just didn't want to announce it as long as it wasn't officially accepted."

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