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Monday 11 December 2017

Wenger raising bar for blazing Gunners

Arsene Wenger has called on his young Arsenal side to focus on eliminating their own "weak moments" rather than be obsessed with the chance of revenge against Manchester United or Chelsea in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

The Gunners secured a place in the last eight with an emphatic 5-0 victory over Porto at Emirates Stadium, overturning a 2-1 deficit from the first leg, as Nicklas Bendtner got back on the goal trail with a hat-trick.

There was, though, a difficult spell for the home side at the start of the second half, when Samir Nasri cleared a header from substitute Cristian Rodriguez off the line, which would have made it 2-1 and levelled the tie, before he went up the other end and scored a fine individual effort.

Emmanuel Eboue and Bendtner's last-minute penalty completed what was in the end a comprehensive win -- and one secured without injured captain Cesc Fabregas.

Arsenal could be joined in the quarter-finals by their domestic title rivals.

While drawing either would be a chance for a slice of revenge given the Gunners' drubbings in the Premier League, Wenger does not want to make too big an issue of whom they may face.

The Arsenal manager said: "It is never easy to be in the top eight in Europe.



Difficult

"The negative side is you only have good teams now -- Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, so it will be difficult.

"At the beginning of the season, nobody expected this team to be where we are, but we showed we have mental strength, we have good desire and good quality.

"I believe it is more important on our side to continue to improve -- there are still some weak moments in the game we can deal with better, so before we talk about Barcelona or Manchester United it is important we continue to improve, then we have a chance."

Wenger, however, stressed: "If we say we absolutely do not want to play an English team, we put ourselves in an inferior position at the start.

"Maybe it is a good opportunity, if we get them, to show we can do well.

"If I have a choice, I would say yes, but I do not have a choice.

"If we get them, we cannot do worse than we did in the championship -- we can only do better.

"We will take the draw we get and also we do not have to make a negative obsession of not playing against Chelsea or Manchester United."

Bendtner had missed a string of chances against Burnley on Saturday, but produced decisive finishes last night.

Wenger said: "It shows you how football can change very quickly.

"Nicklas had not lost the confidence, it remains relatively stable.

"He came back with good focus and the same belief -- that is one of his strengths as well."

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