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Wenger takes heart as Arsenal answer Twente questions

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 14 Aug 2008

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Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal's gritty Champions League victory over Steve McClaren's FC Twente proved his young guns are ready to take centre-stage.

Wenger's side are within touching distance of the lucrative Champions League group stages after snatching a 2-0 win in the third qualifying round first leg in the Netherlands.

With Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Kolo Toure sidelined through injury, Arsenal struggled to impose themselves for long periods as McClaren's fired-up players tried to impress their new manager.

But the Gunners refused to be overwhelmed and Wenger took heart from the way midfielders Denilson, 20, and Aaron Ramsey, 17, kept going even when the team was out of sorts.

The French coach is confident both youngsters are now capable of filling the void in Arsenal's central midfield left by the departures of Mathieu Flamini and Gilberto Silva.

“We stood up well because we were so young in the middle of the park,” Wenger said. “Of course for a game of that level you could be worried but I have confidence in them and I must say I have been paid back very well.

“We expected a difficult game and we were not disappointed. They man-marked us all over the pitch and we needed to be patient and not make any mistakes at the back.

“We changed a bit tactically at half time but most important they dropped their level a bit. To do what they did in the first half, to tackle for every ball, is of course very difficult and from then on we looked a bit more comfortable.”

Wenger, who revealed Middlesbrough have made an enquiry about right-back Justin Hoyte, knows his team will have to do better if they want to advance through the competition.

But at least they have plenty of time to improve. McClaren, taking charge of Twente for the first time, may not get another chance in Europe's elite competition for some while.

The former England coach was last seen sheltering forlornly under an umbrella on the Wembley touchline during the last rites of his country's ill-fated attempt to qualify for Euro 2008.

That defeat against Croatia left his reputation in tatters but he believes he can be reborn in the Netherlands, even if Twente's European hopes can't.

“It's a massive mountain to climb. It's bigger than Everest but we take heart from the performance,” McClaren said.

“I said before that this game isn't just about now but also the future. I like what I see of this team. We showed we are a good team who can compete with the likes of Arsenal.

“We go away thinking 2-0 is an unbelievable result because of the performance we put in.

“That's what happens in Europe against the top teams. The inexperience in the dressing room showed and we have to learn from it. But I can't fault the performance. We had Arsenal rattled, especially in the first half.”

Twente carved out the first half-chance when Roman Denneboom rose above Gael Clichy to head over in the fourth minute.

The best chance of the half fell to Marko Arnautovic. He beat Arsenal's confused offside trap and had only Almunia to beat but, let down by a poor first touch, his shot was too close to the keeper.

There wasn't much more cohesion in Arsenal's play early in the second half, yet they managed to steal the lead in the 63rd minute.

Robin van Persie whipped in a free-kick from the right and Twente's defence stood statuesque as Gallas scrambled the ball home from close-range.

Twente seemed to run out of ideas as the match wore on and Arsenal, while never close to their best, put the result beyond doubt in the 82nd minute.

Twente's defenders allowed a hopeful punt forward to reach Theo Walcott and he passed to Adebayor, who side-footed home.

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