Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Arsenal v Napoli: Arsène Wenger 'obsessed' with winning north London club's ... - Telegraph.co.uk

"You always think: 'Let's do it every year and one year it will go for you.' Let's hope it will be this year. The competition is higher than ever."

Wenger believes that Bayern Munich have surpassed Barcelona as the "super favourites" and, although he still regards Lionel Messi as the world's best player, he has detected a slip in his form.

"For two or three years, Barcelona were above everyone," Wenger said. "Bayern have the same team, plus Mario Gotze on top. They played the final recently many times so they may be more favourites than Barcelona because Messi doesn't look to have the same consistent presence as before. That is down to muscular problems. At the top level, you cannot afford anymore to be in and out. You have to be always there."

And so what of Arsenal's chances this year? They have been drawn in the most difficult group, but began with an away win in Marseille. Wenger expects their fate to hinge on home games against Napoli on Tuesday night and then with Borussia Dortmund and Marseille.

"It's difficult to predict because it's a cup after the group stage," Wenger said. "After Christmas it's about who is available, who is fit and who isn't. If we get out of the group, I would say we have a chance.

"I feel in recent years we have not been helped by the draw. We have played Barca, Barca, Milan, Bayern. We have had difficult draws and recently we haven't had the quality to go through."

Wenger is confident, though, that Arsenal have significantly improved their quality this year. As well as the £42?million addition of Mesut Ozil, improvements in the performances of Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs, Per Mertesacker and Olivier Giroud have underpinned their run of nine successive victories.

Giroud, in particular, has played like he has a point to prove following Arsenal's failed attempts this ­summer to buy a striker. As well as Luis ­Suárez, a bid was rejected for Gonzalo Higuain, who eventually joined ­Arsenal's opponents tonight for £31?million.

Wenger admitted that Higuain's "movement, anticipation in the box and his reading of the game" were the qualities he most admired. He stressed, however, that Giroud had now joined the likes of ­Suárez and Higuain among Europe's best strikers. "And I think he will improve," Wenger said. "At 27 you always think the best years are coming for him now."

With Tomas Rosicky returning from injury, Wenger was also upbeat yesterday when asked about Arsenal's chances of sustaining their lead at the top of the Premier League.

"The most important thing is to have a good balance between ambition and humility," Wenger said. "You believe 100 per cent or you don't believe so that's how much our belief is but we have only played six games and so to speak today about the title is absolutely ridiculous."

And if he could choose, which would it be? The Premier League or the Champions League? "You don't choose," the Frenchman said. "You just want to do well. No matter what I get, I take it."

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