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Guardiola: Arsenal not fragile

On the eve of Arsenal's Champions League tie with Barcelona, Pep Guardiola says he admires the Gunners' consistency at the top level and does not believe Arsene Wenger's side are mentally weak, despite their lack of recent success.

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While Guardiola has enjoyed a deluge of trophies since being appointed Barcelona coach in 2008, Arsenal have been trophyless since 2005 and were recently defeated in the final of the Carling Cup by Birmingham to once again bring their mentality under scrutiny.

Wenger's side remain competitive on three fronts though - including the Champions League, where they approach the last-16, second-leg tie protecting a 2-1 lead - and Guardiola believes the London side could be on the brink of sustained success.

"I keep hearing about the fragility in the minds of the Arsenal players, but I do not agree," Guardiola said. "They are competing with Manchester United for the Premier League, reached the final of the Carling Cup and a few seasons ago were in the final of the Champions League.

"Arsenal are always in the top, when you compete every season at the top, it is because they are quality. Sometimes they sell players, but Arsenal always keep the same level. Many teams arrive at the top for one year, but then are finished. Arsenal are there every season.

"For many years they have kept up there, and that is the real merit. Yes, they lack something, but they are a young team. When they win the first time, they will change the mentality, they will realise they are good."

One player who embodies Arsenal's faith in youth is Jack Wilshere, who has been in excellent form after returning from a loan spell at Bolton last season and surprisingly cementing a place in Wenger's starting XI.

Guardiola admits he has been impressed by the teenage England international, who was outstanding in Arsenal's victory in the first leg, and has compared Wilshere to the graduates coming through Barcelona's own academy.

"Wilshere is a top player. He has been a big surprise. I did not know him at the beginning of the season," he said. "He is an excellent player, not just Arsenal, but also for the national team. We have many players like him in our second team. It is very good news for football to have players like him."

Barca will be without both first-choice defenders Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique for the game at Camp Nou so midfielder Sergio Busquets will partner left-back Eric Abidal in the heart of defence.

Busquets has occupied the role on previous occasions and has no problem doing so again. The Spain international has also warned Arsenal they will not have it easy when a partisan Camp Nou crowd, in excess of 98,000, gets behind the home side.

"Wherever I play, I feel comfortable with all of my team-mates," Busquets said. "I am always prepared, and last week I played in defence against Valencia.

"This will be different from the first leg - we will have the crowd support here from the first minute. We must not be nervous, because the game is 90 minutes and even 1-0 would be good for us. It would be great to have a result like last year, but we will have to earn it if we want to be in the quarter-finals."


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