Arsenal news

Sagna: Team spirit can take us all the way

April 4, 2009

Bacary Sagna maintains Arsenal's unique team spirit can give the Gunners an edge in their quest for Champions League glory.

Arsenal head to Villarreal for the first leg of their quarter-final tie next week with confidence high after forcing themselves back into the top four of the Premier League.

It is in marked contrast to the atmosphere surrounding the Emirates Stadium club earlier in the campaign when the team struggled for consistency.

Manager Arsene Wenger has praised the way his young squad showed their "mental strength" to come through such a testing period unscathed.

As the Gunners enter what will be the defining phase of the campaign - which includes a trip to Wembley to face Chelsea in the semi-finals of the FA Cup - Sagna sees no reason why together this squad should not be able to achieve success.

"You just have to enjoy yourself on the pitch," the Arsenal full-back said.

"We trust each other, we are giving everything - sometimes it works, sometimes not, but at the moment we are working as a team.

"Everyone is confident we can win something this season and can go very far.

"When I come on the pitch, it is like I am with my mates. I know we will do the job properly. I am not thinking about bad things, about whether we will score or not.

"We just give everything, and when you do that, you can have the belief on the pitch and you know you can score goals.

"Our form is back, our confidence is really high and we know we can go all the way in the Champions League."

Sagna is in no doubt the Gunners squad - now boosted by the return of fit-again captain Cesc Fabregas, Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor and England forward Theo Walcott - are feeling on top of their game once again.

"The atmosphere is very good at the moment and we are very confident in all the competitions," he said.

"We will have to give 100% and we have to play 'Arsenal football'.

"I know we can go very far in the Champions League and we will try our utmost to do it."

Wenger has been surprised by the speed at which Sagna settled into the English game and made the right-back slot in the Arsenal team his own since signing from Auxerre in the summer of 2007.

The 26-year-old, though, believes the renowned French coach deserves much credit for keeping the players focussed always on the job in hand, despite whatever the external negative voices may be.

"The manager has helped a lot, because sometimes you have doubts or you can lose some confidence," Sagna told UEFA's website.

"We conceded a lot of goals at the beginning of the season, we dropped a lot of points - but this has not been the case for a while now. We are not losing anymore."

With the likes of leading scorer Robin van Persie, striker Eduardo, midfielder Abou Diaby and Samir Nasri all struggling for fitness, Wenger accepts he may have to juggle his team selection somewhat for the trip to Spain.

"I look at the players who need a rest with the games they have played recently and what will be the best to give a breather to," he said.

Arsenal return to El Madrigal for the first time since their dramatic European Cup semi-final three seasons ago, when a last-gasp penalty save from Jens Lehmann knocked the Yellow Submarine out and set the Gunners through meet Barcelona in Paris.

Veteran former winger Robert Pires, who spent six successful seasons at Highbury, has just signed a new one-year deal with the Spanish club and looks set to face his former team.

Emmanuel Eboue played alongside Pires in the 2006 final, which was the Frenchman's last appearance for the Gunners, and is looking forwards to coming up against his old team-mate.

"When Pires was here, he helped me a lot, so I will give him tremendous respect," Eboue told Arsenal TV.

"But in football, when you play against your friend, you have to forget about that and play to win."