Standard boss hopes to exploit Arsenal weakness
Standard Liege coach Laszlo Boloni has always been full of admiration for Arsene Wenger's football vision but feels his current young Arsenal side may be lacking something in their quest for European glory.
Arsenal were in fine form before the international break, moving above Manchester United and closing in on Premier League leaders Chelsea following a 13-match unbeaten run across all competitions. However, a 1-0 defeat at Sunderland has raised fresh questions about whether they are ready to end their long wait for silverware.
Nevertheless, Arsenal can secure a place in the last 16 of the Champions League with a draw against Standard at Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night, when they must again do without Netherlands striker Robin van Persie, who damaged ankle ligaments while away during the international break.
And Boloni - whose side raced into an early 2-0 lead inside the first five minutes of their opening Group H game against the Gunners in Belgium, before losing 3-2 - maintains that, while Arsenal are certainly are among the European heavyweights, they remain just short of complete dominance.
"I feel the policy of Arsenal is something really incredible and admiral," Boloni said. "Arsene Wenger's policy and they way he manages is very intelligent, and the way he manages his game is also very intelligent.
"I remember discussing with him when I was a young trainer, I was really admiring his intelligence and also his vision about the future of the club - but in comparison to Real Madrid, Barcelona or Chelsea, maybe they lack something."
Boloni, though, is not expecting anything other than another severe test for his Champions League newcomers, with defeat tomorrow all but ending chances of qualification for the knockout stages.
"Arsenal have some warriors in their team, they are not young lambs," he said. "It is easy to say 'to go to war', but without the ball it is very difficult. We must have strength to do more than that. We will be organised and with our strength we will try to do the maximum so that they will respect us.
"It is always great to come to England and to come to come to such a stadium - it is really a football temple. It would be good to be happy when we leave the stadium as well."