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Thursday 8 December 2016

Wenger hopes he won't be counting the cost-a

Arsenal's defence must be 'cold-blooded' in clash

Arsene Wenger is a fan of Diego Costa (main picture), despite his confrontational reputation.
Arsene Wenger is a fan of Diego Costa (main picture), despite his confrontational reputation.

Arsene Wenger is a fan of Diego Costa and has warned his defence they must be "cold-blooded" to deal with the Chelsea striker - who he says could do without the added theatrics which accompany his game.

Costa has proved a thorn in the side of Arsenal's defence in recent times, including scoring the winner in the meeting between the two teams at the Emirates Stadium last season.

The London clubs renew their rivalry on Saturday with Arsenal looking for a first Premier League win over the Blues since October 2011.

Costa will lead the line for Chelsea having been involved in two flashpoints when the clubs met last year - firstly Gabriel was sent off at Stamford Bridge after tangling with the Spain forward before Per Mertesacker saw red for hauling him down in the game at the Emirates.

Constantly niggling and riling his opponents has become part of Costa's game, with the 27-year-old lucky to escape red cards already this season.

Aspect

And, while Wenger admits he is an admirer of Costa, he feels he can be just as good if he removes the fiery aspect of his character.

"I like him as a player. I like the qualities of the player but all the rest around is not needed," the Arsenal boss said.

"He is a fighter and you respect that. The rest is down to the referees to get the game and the rules respected.

"He's a very strong player. He looks since the start of the season to have cleaned up his act, that he behaves more focused on the game. And that makes him more dangerous."

Wenger, who said Costa was on his radar but he was caught out when the striker opted to leave Atletico Madrid for Stamford Bridge in 2014, has told his defence to remove the emotion from coming up against him this weekend.

Asked how his defence can face up against Costa, Wenger replied: "By being completely cold-blooded and just focus on the game and not respond. Just try to negate his qualities and his game.

"You need to be committed but by respecting the rules of the game and responding. Last year we were a bit unlucky at Chelsea to be down to 10 men because we got a red card and it was rescinded after.

"In the other game, we deserved the red card because we were caught out due to a quality run by him."

Wenger admits he has also discussed discipline with his players following their recent run of cards against Chelsea.

"We talk about that because in the last two games, we've played against Chelsea with 10 men" he said.

"Discipline and results are strongly linked."

Having lost on the opening weekend to Liverpool before a goalless draw at champions Leicester, Arsenal have won their last three Premier League games and also battled to a 1-1 Champions League draw at Paris St Germain. And Wenger wants to use Conte's Chelsea as a measuring stick to see how good his side are at present.

"It is an important game for us because we feel we are on the way up and Chelsea is a good test and a good opportunity for us to continue our progress," he added.

"We have narrowed the distance between us and all the other teams but it's a new start. It's a new opportunity for everybody and we have to show that we can continue our progress."

The Gunners will be without Aaron Ramsey for the game after Wenger confirmed the Wales midfielder is still missing with a hamstring problem which is likely to keep him out of the next round of international fixtures.

Olivier Giroud faces a late fitness test as he looks to overcome a toe injury to be involved, while Wenger is expected to make wholesale changes having named a completely different starting XI for Tuesday's EFL Cup win at Nottingham Forest.

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