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Apr 17, 2009

Attack the best form of defence for Wenger

Fans attending Saturday's FA Cup semi-final between Chelsea and Arsenal at Wembley can expect a free-flowing game from Arsene Wenger's men, after the Gunners boss hinted that attack will be the best form of defence for his injury-hit side.

Wenger accepts his squad is thin at the back, but insists ''in quality we are still strong''.

Youngster Kieran Gibbs will undergo a fitness test on his groin problem suffered in the closing minutes of the midweek Champions League win over Villarreal, but fellow full-back Bacary Sagna will be out again because of a virus.

With goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, Gael Clichy, William Gallas and Johan Djourou all also unavailable, Wenger will be forced to send out a makeshift rearguard against the Blues.

Veteran Mikael Silvestre is expected to start, while midfielders Emmanuel Eboue and Alex Song are on stand-by to drop back into defence if needed.

However, the likes of Russian playmaker Andrey Arshavin, who was cup-tied in midweek, and Croatia forward Eduardo, are back to full match fitness and join Samir Nasri, England winger Theo Walcott, in-form Togo frontman Emmanuel Adebayor and leading scorer Robin van Persie among the attacking options available to Wenger for whom captain Cesc Fabregas has been deployed in a more forward role.

Wenger believes Arsenal have no other way to approach the game than with their usual quick-passing, forward-thinking style.

''You know how we play. We will not sit back and wait for Chelsea to make the game. We will go in there and try to dictate the game,'' said Wenger. ''If you say that we have too many players at the moment going forward it is because many of them were out and we discovered those who came in are very good as well.

''But do not forget that two or three months ago, people were saying 'you cannot score goals, you don't have enough offensive weapons'. We show now that we have the players and the confidence.''

Wenger, though, insisted: ''I don't expect Chelsea to fear us, I just expect them to play a good game.

''I expect us, with the needed confidence we have built up, to go into this game firing on all cylinders and play with the passion, hunger and happiness we have shown in every single game.''

The Gunners head to the rebuilt national stadium for the first time since it re-opened two years ago following a £750m redevelopment.

Wenger, though, admits he was not impressed by the new ground when he visited as a spectator, and the old stadium - which hosted some of Arsenal's Champions League games - still holds a special place in his heart.

''I loved the old Wembley, and I was not too impressed by the new Wembley,'' said the Arsenal manager. ''I was only there was as a spectator at the first FA Cup final between Chelsea and Manchester United. Maybe I will have a completely different impression this time, I was only a spectator - I was not behind the scenes in the stadium or on the pitch.''

''When I heard they had problems with the pitch, that was a big disappointment because you always felt you wanted to play at Wembley as there was something special on the pitch there.

''If that is not there any more, then it is a little bit disappointing. I expect a good pitch, but the noises I get are not as convincing as the former pitch. The former pitch was really something special.''

Much has been made of the decision to play both semi-finals at Wembley, with Manchester United set to face Everton on Sunday afternoon.

Wenger, though, can understand the reasoning behind the Football Association's scheduling.

He said: ''Playing the semi-final at Wembley maybe takes away something a little bit from the final day, but I understand after building a new stadium they have to make some money with that, especially in the current recession.''

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