Arsène Wenger Backs Arsenal To Cope With Tottenham's Gareth Bale

Arsène Wenger is adamant Arsenal will be able to cope with the threat of Gareth Bale in Sunday's north London derby , insisting there is no specific plan to deal with Tottenham's in-form attacker and claiming his side are stronger for not merely relying on the performances of only one player.

The two rivals meet at White Hart Lane with Arsenal trailing Spurs by four points in the Premier League, knowing a defeat would leave them struggling to climb back into the top four with 10 games remaining this season.

Bale has been in scintillating form this year. The Welshman has scored six of Tottenham's past seven league goals, and nine in his last seven matches overall, but Wenger believes his displays will inevitably dip and is happy with Arsenal's strength across the pitch, compared with last season when they were heavily reliant on Robin van Persie.

Asked if there was a specific plan to deal with the threat of Bale, Wenger said: "Bale is not the subject of our worry. It would be a complete mistake to focus on any player from Tottenham. There is nobody special that you least like to face, all players have different qualities. As a manager, over the last 15 years you focus on your team preparing the best and focus on the football we love."

He continued: "At the moment I feel we can score from many positions and I prefer that, personally. We have many players who can score. Walcott can score, Giroud can score, Cazorla can score, I think Wilshere will score as well, so we have many players, Podolski can score.

"I think we have scored more goals than last year and last year our efficiency was always depending on Van Persie and I always worried about the day Van Persie gets injured. Our sport, much as we love it as a team sport, becomes an individual sport because when Barça play Real Madrid its Ronaldo v Messi at the end. It always finishes like that. All the rest are good players, great players. But if these two individuals are not in a good day, the result of the game is influenced by it and that's why everybody fights for the big players."

Bale scored in the corresponding fixture at the Emirates Stadium in November but Spurs, despite taking the lead, were beaten 5-2 following Emmanuel Adebayor's sending-off. Asked if Bale could sustain his fine form, Wenger added: "No, to maintain that percentage at the moment I think it's certainly the best in Europe but, in terms of conversion rate and chances created, to maintain that is very, very difficult. But of course he has good pace, a good shot and his pace is an advantage to use well his shot."

Arsenal will be without Bacary Sagna on Sundayas the right-back still has a knee injury, leaving Carl Jenkinson potentially to deal with Bale, while Abou Diaby is a doubt after hurting his leg during last weekend's victory over Aston Villa.

That 2-1 win was much needed after successive defeats by Blackburn Rovers and Bayern Munich, leaving Arsenal on the brink of a Champions League exit and only qualification for next season's tournament to play for.

Wenger claims that the derby still holds a special meaning after 16 years in charge of the club and praised André Villas-Boas for the impact he has made at Spurs since being sacked by Chelsea one year ago.

"It is still special for me … even more," Wenger said. "Because when I arrived I was a bit more detached from that. Now, the longer you stay here, the more you realise how some houses are divided in two and what impact it has on the mood of the week after of everybody. Of course I am conscious of that but what I am even more conscious of is the magical importance of the game.

"He [Villas-Boas] has done well. They play well. They are a good side. They have renewed a lot of their team and they are doing quite well."

Powered by article was written by James Riach, for on Friday 1st March 2013 22.30 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


images: © andybrannan, © Matt Boulton

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