Wenger unconcerned by knockout draw

December 12, 2007

Arsene Wenger welcomed the chance for Arsenal to prove themselves against Europe's elite following tonight's 2-1 triumph over Steaua Bucharest.

Victory was not enough to secure the Gunners top spot in Group H of the Champions League and they are now likely to land tough opposition in the draw for the last 16 a week on Friday.

But Wenger refused to rue the failure to secure inclusion among the top seeds and is confident Arsenal can topple any of the competition's big guns.

The Frenchman said: 'We finished with 13 points which was good but not good enough to win the group.

'That promises us a very interesting last-16 game. I'm not at all disappointed that we can now draw one of the big clubs.

'It's a good opportunity to prove ourselves. Two years ago we played Juventus and won.

'Last season we played PSV Eindhoven yet lost. It's a cup game.

'I'm highly confident we can beat anybody. I have great belief in my team and their ability to grow stronger.'

Abou Diaby and Nicklas Bendtner struck to reward Arsenal's first-half dominance but they faded after the break, allowing Dorel Zaharia to slash the deficit.

Wenger was serving the touchline ban landed for his sending off against Sevilla last month, but refused to explain how he communicated during the match.

He said: 'We had a good first half and overall our game was well organised. Our combination play was good.

'We were not clinical enough to finish what we created but overall I was happy.

'In the second half our game dropped and from what I could see from upstairs that was for physical reasons.

'The main reason for that was we had players like Robin van Persie, Diaby and Alexandre Song back from injury.'

Van Persie made his first appearance since October 7 after recovering from a knee injury and Wenger is ready to play him in Sunday's Barclays Premier League clash with Chelsea.

He said: 'The game was no problem for Van Persie. He looked sharp - his eye was there and his pass was there.

'He needs to grow in confidence for his tackling but on the footballing side it looked like he'd never been out. He's ready for Chelsea.'

Wenger revealed Mathieu Flamini (thigh) could return against Chelsea but Cesc Fabregas (hamstring) and Alexander Hleb (Achilles) are big doubts for the Emirates showdown.

Steaua boss Marius Lacatus was delighted by his side's second-half display but felt Arsenal had been shown too much respect before the interval.

He said: 'We had two very different halves. The first was very poor.

'We didn't create any problems for Arsenal offensively. We made too many mistakes and we were down by two at half time.

'We tried harder after the break and grew in confidence, even scoring, and we could have equalised at the end of the game.

'I was happy with the second half, especially the effort. Maybe if we'd been more composed we could have scored the second goal.

'But we must remember who we played tonight. Arsenal caused us a lot of problems and deserved their win.

'Maybe we had too much respect for them and that was evident in the half-time score.'