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Mar, 14, 2011

Wenger not questioning steel

Arsene Wenger insists he has no concerns about his players' winning mentality after Arsenal exited three competitions in a fortnight.

Wenger: Arsenal can still win title
Ramsey forgets injury hell
Djourou out for season
Lehmann coy on Arsenal return

Arsenal had been expected to end their six-year trophy drought when they took on relegation-threatened Birmingham in the Carling Cup final at the end of February, but they were beaten 2-1 at Wembley before losing to Barcelona in the Champions League and Manchester United in the FA Cup.

The defeats mean the Gunners are now only in contention for the Premier League and it has been suggested that this talented squad is lacking in the psychological edge required to claim silverware.

Asked about his players' steel and mental strength, though, Wenger said: "We still have it. I don't question that.

"It's been very difficult for the players, but they have never shown any sign of weakness mentally. Even on Saturday they have put ­absolutely every effort in and I can only be proud of how much they did fight.

"The only thing I can say is that I'm ready to give absolutely everything to win the title. Let's hope, and I'm confident we will, but we need now to work to recover.

"I believe we can do it. It's a good test now for us to show we can regroup, show mental strength, togetherness and respond quickly.

"We will have this kind of questioning for the next two, three weeks and we have to show we have an answer to that. We are used to being questioned - and we have to show we are strong enough to deal with that."

Wenger believes that, even if Arsenal do fail to secure the title, they will still have exceeded expectations this season.

"If I listened to everybody then it is a miracle that we are playing for the title with ten games to go," he said. "Nobody in England believed we could even fight for the top four. The fact we are in the position we are in, I think, deserves a lot of credit."

Former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit, though, believes the squad lacks anyone with a winning mentality and feels the club's most important players, including captain Cesc Fabregas, are showing signs of the strain.

"Since 2005, and the departures of [Patrick] Vieira, [Robert] Pires and company, you realise he's banking above all on a young, malleable team where he can invest in a sporting project," he told The Sun. "Arsenal's game is a trademark on the pitch but there aren't really any players with a winning mentality.

"This pains me because I am an Arsenal and fan and, over the last few seasons, if there's a team that's deserved to win a title it's them."

He added: "There seems to be a curse around the club at the moment. Arsenal's key players seem to be cracking up.

"You get the impression that some psychological work will need to be done on Fabregas. His recent performances have been below his usual standard. He seems to have a complex over his former club Barcelona."

Petit, who left Arsenal for Barcelona in 2000, feels there is a tendency for players to avoid playing their natural game in a bid to fit the club's image.

"Players are playing against their nature a bit," he said. "Barca play exceptional football and from an early age they teach the boys the same way.

"That's not the case with Arsenal. There are players we've known for a while who are playing against their nature. I'm thinking of lads like Abou Diaby, whose physical impact is a bit less. There are players who try to play in the image of Cesc Fabregas when they don't have the same qualities."

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