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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 19, 2011

Wenger struggling in defender search

Arsene Wenger admits his search for a new centre-back is going nowhere - but only because it is tough to match the quality he already has in the Arsenal defence.

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The Gunners are short of cover at the heart of their backline, with both Thomas Vermaelen and Sebastien Squillaci sidelined.

Spanish youngster Ignasi Miquel, 18, has been promoted from the reserves to the first-team squad, and is likely to be included again for Wednesday night's FA Cup third-round replay at Leeds.

However, Wenger continues to look for experience, and has been linked with moves for the likes of Bolton's Gary Cahill, Werder Bremen stopper Per Mertesacker and also veteran Aston Villa centre-half Richard Dunne. The Arsenal boss, though, maintains he is no closer to delivering a top-quality target.

"It is still nowhere. We get many offers but at the moment, nothing concrete,'' Wenger told Arsenal TV Online. "If you look at the centre-backs we have, they are quality; [Johan] Djourou, Squillaci, [Laurent] Koscielny, Vermaelen. The quality of the player coming in, what will it be? It is a compliment of the players we have already? It is very difficult to predict.''

Wenger openly admits he will make "a few changes'' to rotate his starting XI for what will be Arsenal's sixth fixture of a congested January after needing a last-minute penalty from captain Cesc Fabregas to deny the Championship side a famous win at Emirates Stadium 10 days ago.

Nicklas Bendtner and Marouane Chamakh were both unused substitutes for the 3-0 win at West Ham on Saturday, which kept up Arsenal's Premier League title challenge.

Czech winger Tomas Rosicky is expected to be involved having recovered from a virus, while there could also be a first start for midfielder Aaron Ramsey after his return to action from a broken leg. After watching his team return to winning ways with a convincing display at Upton Park having been well below par in the shock 1-0 Carling Cup semi-final first leg defeat away to Ipswich, Wenger knows Arsenal must continue that improvement tomorrow.

"The speed of our display, the speed of thought, the sharpness of our game has to improve,'' he said. "We want to be sharper and more positive, we started the game a little bit off our usual level. That means first, mentally, of all you want to switch on much quicker.''

Arsenal have a fine away record this season, and can certainly expect a testing atmosphere at Elland Road, a venue which not so long ago hosted such showdowns on a regular basis. Wenger, though, feels his squad will not suffer from stage fight.

"No matter what they do, the fans will be behind the team at Leeds. On the other hand, we are used to that and that would not be any excuse for us,'' he said. "We have played all over the world, everywhere, in vociferous stadiums. I don't think that will be any excuse for us, it's natural and normal. What's important is that you show your quality no matter in what kind of environment you play.''

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