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Monday 21 August 2017

Victory over Anderlecht will be ideal birthday present for Gunners manager Wenger

Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has no special plans to mark his 65th birthday - other than securing victory over Anderlecht in Brussels.

The French coach reached 1,000 matches in charge of the Gunners last season before ending the campaign with the club's first trophy in nine seasons with FA Cup success at Wembley.

While birthdays are often a time of reflection for many, Wenger is just focusing on bringing home with three points to keep Arsenal on course for qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League from Group D.

"No I am not a celebrator of birthdays. I just think what is important tomorrow is that my team performs well," he said.

ENERGY

"It is a big game for us and I just dedicate all my energy to getting things right to perform because at the moment, I feel there is a difference between the quality of our performances and the points we get.

"We want to add something to the quality of our performance and get the points that you feel is there in the team, that little percentage we can improve in the team is vital and I hope we get it from tomorrow and onwards."

Having guided Arsenal to three Premier League titles - including the famous 'Invincibles' unbeaten campaign of 2003-2004 - five FA Cup triumphs and also taken his side to the 2006 Champions League final, Wenger has just about seen it all since taking over at Highbury back in October 1996.

Wenger, though, insists he remains as energised as he has ever been to succeed.

"Yes, honestly, more than ever," he said. "Do I feel young? No, because my age is my age and you have to deal with that, but until now I am lucky to be in good shape - the desire and the motivation is stronger than ever.

"I am so keen to do well with my team this season, I hope we can do it because I feel there is a huge potential there and my energy is only driven by that.

"I want the team and club to do as well as they can.

"It is my dream and I will give absolutely everything until the end of the season to do it."

Meanwhile, Wenger has every confidence rookie goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez will be up to the challenge tonight.

With regular Gunners' number one Wojciech Szczesny suspended and Colombia international David Ospina, bought in the summer from Nice, suffering a recurrence of a thigh problem which will sideline him for up to three months, Wenger has little choice but to put his faith in the 22-year-old.

Although Martinez has made just two Arsenal appearances - in the Carling Cup during late 2012, which included conceding four goals in the first half of a remarkable 7-5 win at Reading - Wenger believes spending a loan period in the Sky Bet Championship with Sheffield Wednesday last season will have served as good preparation for what awaits at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium.

CONFIDENT

"(I am) extremely confident, because he has experience from Sheffield last year and when he played for us, he did very well. I have no special worry about that," said Wenger.

"He is two years older now (than his last Arsenal match), has a good experience.

"He has grown in stature as well. We have to make sure that we make it as comfortable a night as we can for him, and that is by defending well as a team."

Midfielder Jack Wilshere insists Martinez has the full confidence of the entire squad.

"He is in our dressing room now so we know him well. He is confident and has grown up quite a lot in the last two years. He learned from Sheffield, playing in a tough league, especially as a foreign keeper," he said.

"We are see him train every day, what he can do and we are confident he will be ready."

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