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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr 7, 2009

Wenger: We can produce against Villarreal

Arsene Wenger is in no doubt his young Arsenal side can come through another test of character and produce the result required against Villarreal at the intimidating El Madrigal.

The Gunners head into the Champions League quarter-final first leg on the back of an improved run of form which has seen them climb back up into the top four of the Premier League and secure an FA Cup semi-final date with Chelsea at Wembley.

Although leading scorer Robin van Persie did not make the trip to Spain because of a groin problem suffered while on international duty, captain Cesc Fabregas and Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor will both continue their comebacks against the Yellow Submarine.

There is now a much more positive outlook for the Gunners, following what had been a difficult opening to the campaign.

''The team has become stronger since the beginning of the season,'' Wenger said. ''This team has shown a fantastic spirit, because they had to fight against every negative opinion existing in England, and they did that very well.

''I have a lot of respect for my team because of the mental strength they have shown.

''It is a very young team and my hope is that we can keep them together and develop very well.''

The Arsenal boss added: ''What is important is how much belief we take into the game against Villarreal. I am convinced we have enough experience to know that these kind of games are for 180 minutes - and that every single minute is important.''

Arsenal are set to come up against one of their finest former players in Robert Pires. The 35-year-old winger spent six successful seasons at Highbury.

However, the Frenchman's Arsenal career ended on a disappointing note with a last appearance for the Gunners in the 2006 Champions League final defeat to Barcelona, when he was substituted in an early tactical change following the sending off of goalkeeper Jens Lehmann.

Wenger declared: ''Pires was one of the great players I have signed. Of course I would think that opinion would be shared by many Arsenal fans.

''Robert is still loved by the club and have a lot of respect for what he has done for the club.''

Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, meanwhile, insists now is the time for Wenger's young Gunners to deliver on the big stage.

''This season looks to be our season,'' the Spaniard declared. ''It looks to be the season for the young players to be man enough to face all the big competitions we have.

''Players like Alex Song, Abou Diaby and Theo Walcott - when these players are 100% fit, they can be mentally prepared to be totally professional, and they have the potential to win trophies.

''We can win every single game and we are here to do it.''

Russian midfielder Andrey Arshavin is ineligible for the Champions League having played for Zenit St Petersburg during the group stages before his January transfer to the Emirates Stadium, but France winger Samir Nasri has travelled after overcoming a virus.

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