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Top 5: First XI costs in Premier League

Transfers about an hour ago
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Focus on attack papers over Man Utd cracks

Man Utd about an hour ago
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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr 3, 2009

Wenger wants "formidable" end to season

Arsene Wenger maintains Arsenal must stay focused on securing a ''formidable'' end to the season rather than worrying about the long-term future of stars like Cesc Fabregas.

The Gunners captain is set to return after three months out with a serious knee injury for the visit of Manchester City on Saturday.

Even though the Spain international has been out of action, that has not stopped Barcelona president Joan Laporta once again declaring his wish to one day see the 21-year-old back at the Nou Camp, sparking speculation of a big-money summer transfer swoop for the central midfielder.

Leading scorer Robin van Persie - out with a groin problem - and England forward Theo Walcott, who returns from a minor knee injury, have yet to have agree new deals with the Emirates Stadium club.

Much has been made of whether Arsenal are able to meet the expectation levels of their top men with silverware.

But as the Gunners, currently fourth in the Premier League, enter the defining period of the campaign - which includes a Champions League quarter-final with Villarreal and an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea at Wembley - Wenger has called for the players to keep their attentions firmly fixed on the job in hand.

''Our success depends on how well we focus on short-term and how intelligent we are to rule out all the long-term speculation,'' the Arsenal manager said.

''We have answered that question [on Fabregas] for five years now. What is important is that a player like Cesc can come back into the squad and help us be successful.''

Wenger maintained: ''What is important for us is not who stays in July or who goes, it is how much we focus on the next game. It is how well we deal with that kind of thing inside the club; that is more important than what people say.

''Any distraction would be a weakness from our side and a wrong excuse. We do not want that. We cannot influence what people say, or write or think. We can influence how much success we can achieve together.

''The period which is in front of us can be a formidable human experience for our players, and that is what I want it to be.''

Frontman Emmanuel Adebayor is also back in contention following a successful return to action with Togo following a hamstring injury during the international break.

Although Eduardo (groin), Abou Diaby (thigh) and Samir Nasri (virus) are all set to miss out on Saturday Nicklas Bendtner (knee) is expected to be fit.

Despite the mixed news in terms of selection, Wenger maintained: ''There is only a key team. There are no key players. What I expect is a performance from the team and not of just one given player.

''We know the players will come back and need some time.''

Wenger added: ''We have eight games in 24 days and that means our success will be determined by the squad and not by any given player. We just focus to win any game with the players who are playing and not any individuals.''

Arsenal have not lost in over 16 Premier League matches since they went down 3-0 at Eastlands in late November - and Wenger does not want all that effort thrown away.

''We have put ourselves in a very strong position because of the hard work we have done now,'' he said, ''but it is the final part of the season where every single game becomes massively important, nearly a decider. We have to do as well as we can, and after you can accept every verdict.''

Even though the Gunners have now clawed themselves back into the Champions League places as Aston Villa falter, Wenger's men remain 10 points adrift of leaders Manchester United - who have a game in hand - and six behind third-placed Chelsea.

Wenger accepted: ''Unless Manchester United collapse completely, it would be a bit pretentious at the moment to say we are in it - but you never know. What is high in our mind is to get as close as possible to the teams who are at the top and then if something happens, not to have any regrets.''

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