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Wenger warns Arsenal to play fair

SoccerNews in English Premier League 15 Aug 2008

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Arsene Wenger has told his Arsenal stars to play fair as they try to wrestle the Premier League title from Manchester United.

Gunners striker Emmanuel Adebayor believes Arsenal must be willing to sacrifice their purist principles and do whatever it takes to win after three years without a trophy.

But Wenger, whose side start the Premier League season at home to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, is determined to make sure his team show respect for opponents and officials.

The English Football Association has launched a campaign to persuade players to stop harrassing referees and Wenger agrees that the top clubs have a responsibility to act honourably.

“Are we ready to kill someone to win a game? No, because you have to respect the rules in football. The beauty in the game is to win in respect of the rules,” he said.

“Can you win the league by playing completely non-football? I don’t believe so. Historically it is proven that the teams who win the league are the better technical teams.

“The leading clubs have a responsibility to try to make the games attractive. They can never be a long-term target to play a dirty game or one which is not attractive.

“It is always very nice in pre-season and everyone wants to respect each other. When it comes to points, it becomes a bit different. The most important thing is the actions during the game.

“When you go to church on a Sunday, the priest says everyone has to be respectful and generous – but when you come out of the church, everyone is not generous and respectful.”

It is four years since Wenger led Arsenal to the Premier League title and his side threw away a golden chance to reclaim the English crown last season as United overtook them in the closing weeks.

Arsenal ended up four points behind United but despite the departures of Mathieu Flamini, Alexander Hleb and Gilberto Silva, he is convinced they can close the gap.

“We feel we were a fraction short last year by not much,” Wenger said. “We want to show we can get the four points which made the difference last year between us and the winner.

“Of course we have lost some players but we have also brought some players. We opted for some stability.

“Let’s focus on the short-term goals and lets show later on we’ve learned from when we dropped off last season.

“Usually the teams which comes up give you a good game and it is our target to win the first game.”

Close-season signing Samir Nasri is in line to make his full debut having recovered from a niggling thigh and knee complaint and Wenger expects the French midfielder to make an immediate impact.

“He can replace Alex Hleb in the build up of the game, in the creation of the chances and also he is very versatile,” he said.

“I expect he will fit well into our collective game and that he expresses a good attitude, is very ambitious and fights very hard for the team.

“He is an intelligent boy and that is always a very good ingredient.”

Arsenal have been linked with moves for several high-profile targets — including Udinese’s Swiss international Gokhan Inler and Aston Villa’s Gareth Barry.

But Wenger admitted not being able to field a new player in the Champions League — as with now cup-tied England midfielder Barry — could affect his decision.

“It is a concern and something I will consider. I feel the player loses value if he is not eligible for the Champions League,” Wenger said.

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