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Wenger stokes Arsenal´s sense of injustice ahead of Slavia Prague clash

23 October 2007 11:21

LONDON (AFP) - Motivation comes in many guises and Arsene Wenger is cleverly cultivating a sense of injustice in his Arsenal players as they stride through their Champions League group.

Wenger's side are in fine form and should extend their 100 percent winning record in Group H when they host Slavia Prague on Tuesday.

The Gunners have surged to the top of the Premier League after 11 consecutive wins - their best streak since 2002 - and are playing arguably the most eye-catching football in Europe.

The downside of such a dynamic start is it could breed complacency among Arsenal's young squad when confronted by a team of Slavia's relatively meagre pedigree.

So it was revealing to hear Wenger talk passionately about last season's Champions League exit against PSV Eindhoven, and how the painful memories of that second round defeat can serve as a useful reminder of what happens to a team when they take their foot of the gas.

"The big frustration in our throats is how we went out last year against PSV Eindhoven," Wenger said. "That frustration is still very lively.

"To get that out, I do not think we will have any chance to relax against teams like Slavia Prague because we have been knocked out last season by PSV.

"We have a year's more experience now and have a squad which is really of a very good level, where everybody can play.

"I believe the strength of this group is that despite their youth they can handle that - they lack fear because they can play. Confidence is a very important factor in our game."

It has become common-place to express surprise at how well Arsenal have fared this season despite the loss of their talismanic striker Thierry Henry to Barcelona.

But, while others were writing off the Gunners, Wenger had already seen signs of progress during the last campaign.

Rather than be affected by Henry's departure, the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie and Mathieu Flamini have been liberated by the absence of their sometimes over-bearing former captain.

For their confidence to really flourish, Wenger knew Arsenal needed to get off to winning start. They have accomplished that aim in style and now the French coach expects them to sustain their momentum.

"When you do not start well, you have to be even stronger to get back and you need even more experience," he said.

"So with a young squad like we had it was important, especially with the season we had where belief was a bit down, to start well early and we have done that.

"The players will be up for it. Can we sustain our pace at the moment? That is a question I understand, but why not?

"On the performance we have shown until now, it is not only that we can win the games, but also that we have quality."

With van Persie currently sidelined through injury, it took Arsenal a while to break down Bolton on Saturday and they are likely to face similarly obdurate opponents in Slavia.

The second half introduction of Theo Walcott helped tip the balance in Arsenal's favour at the weekend and Wenger will have no qualms about using the teenager more often now he finally shows signs of fulfilling his undoubted promise.

"He has found the injection of pace he had before and he uses his body better," Wenger said. "When you see what he brings when he came on, you are very excited."

Slavia are playing in Europe's elite club competition for the first time and they have already claimed one impressive scalp after beating Dutch team Ajax in the qualifying rounds.

But Arsenal knocked out Slavia's city rivals Sparta, the reigning Czech champions, to reach the group stage, so Karel Jarolim's team won't hold too many fears - especially with Wenger's subtle incentive at the back of their minds.

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