Wenger pledges Henry gamble can pay off

September 19, 2007

Arsene Wenger accepts it was something of a 'gamble' to move on without Thierry Henry but the Arsenal manager is confident his men are up to the challenge of the Champions League.

There may be continued uncertainty off the pitch with Russian businessman Alisher Usmanov having increased his shareholding in the club and over just what the intentions of American billionaire Stan Kroenke are, but the Gunners have nevertheless made a superb start to the new campaign.

Wenger's young side sit top of the Premier League table with four wins and a draw from their five matches, and they will head into tonight's Champions League clash against Sevilla full of confidence.

The Arsenal manager, however, knows there is a long way to go before any silverware is handed out.

'It was a big gamble, and it is one I have not won yet because we have only played five games and it is nothing,' said Wenger, who reluctantly let his star man join Barcelona during the summer.

'I knew I took a gamble by losing Thierry - but you cannot keep (players like Emmanuel) Adebayor (out). At his age you have to let him play.

'I am not surprised that we have started well - but they have confirmed my hopes.

'They have strengthened my belief that this team can do well, but you have to show it on the pitch.'

Wenger added: 'Many times Michel Platini told me when I went to watch him for French national teams, `They give me the ball when we lead 3-0' so it is natural when a player of the calibre of Thierry, they look for him first to do something, and when he is not there somebody else, it is a bit more shared.'

The Arsenal manager knows the visit of Spanish side Sevilla - coached by Juande Ramos, who was targeted by Tottenham as a replacement for beleaguered boss Martin Jol - will provide a stern test of their European credentials.

He said: 'My players must show the same belief, drive and consistency they have shown in the Premier League so far.

'There is a hunger in every game to play, and we just want to continue that. It is a different kind of football.'

Wenger added: 'It will be between two teams who try to play and go forward so it should be a good game.

'Maybe they can think as well that if they get a draw at Arsenal they are in a strong position in the group, so maybe they will change their philosophy, but usually they go forward.'

Defender Kolo Toure, 26, is one of the players whose influence in the side has increased this season.

However, the Ivory Coast defender knows there is no one single man able to fill the considerable boots of Henry.

Toure said: 'Thierry Henry has been a great player for us, but you cannot demand another player to do the same as him.

'You can see that everyone is taking their own responsibility.

'At the moment, we can see that we can score goals from everywhere, and for a team to stop us scoring is really difficult now because Cesc (Fabregas) can score, (Alexander) Hleb, (Robin) van Persie, (Tomas) Rosicky, Adebayor - the dangers can come from everywhere. That is the difference for this season.'