Henry's Spirited Case for Defence

Daily Mail (London), March 7, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Henry's Spirited Case for Defence


Byline: STEVE CURRY

ARSENAL . . . . . . . . . .3 PORTSMOUTH . . . . . .0 ARSENAL'S dubious defence kept their second clean sheet in five days and that pleased Arsene Wenger as much as Thierry Henry's hat-trick.

The Gunners manager expects his forward line to score goals against Bayern Munich on Wednesday. They can do it with style and are still as irresistible as any team going orward. But even Henry knows that, ultimately, the tie could be won or lost by how they defend.

'We will need to be strong and keep a clean sheet because that is what will keep our hopes alive,' he said.

'Everyone is talking about our defence this season. At Sheffield United everyone felt we were going to concede goals on set-pieces, yet we kept the clean sheet. We did it again in this match. It is much better to be going into the Bayern game having not conceded than winning 3-2.' With Pascal Cygan and Sol Campbell still injured, Arsenal will rely on a partnership of Philippe Senderos and Kolo Toure in central defence, with Lauren returning at right back after making an appearance as substitute on Saturday.

There were occasions when Arsenal looked vulnerable to the pace and heading ability of Ayegbeni Yakubu and the feeling remains that they are still not defending well as a unit.

Wenger accepts how crucial this will be against more probing forwards than Portsmouth's.

'What we do defensively will be as important as what we do offensively against Munich. We know that we can score one or two goals but equally important is preventing them from adding to their three goals,' said the Arsenal manager.

The balance between having to score two goals and ensuring a tight defence will dictate Wenger's strategy and, in that respect, the return of the ageless Dennis Bergkamp will be critical.

If Patrick Vieira is the bandleader and Henry the trumpeter, the Dutchman is certainly the lead guitarist.

How he pulls the strings will be critical, even if Wenger admitted at the weekend that they must slowly get used to the fact he cannot go on forever.

Bayern will defend in depth and it may need those measured and visionary passes that are Bergkamp's hallmark to make the breakthrough.

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