Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Wenger's Fear over Champions League

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Wenger's Fear over Champions League

Article excerpt

Byline: WAYNE VEYSEY

ARSENE WENGER today expressed concern over Arsenal's ability to even qualify for the Champions League group stage this season.

Wenger claims his preparations have been a "nightmare" because so many of his top players are still on holiday following the World Cup.

Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas, Jens Lehmann, Freddie Ljungberg, Ashley Cole, and Jose Reyes were among those who were absent from training in front of 20,000 supporters at their new Emirates Stadium today.

"Our first Champions League qualifier is on August 8th or 9th and Henry and Lehmann are not even due back to preseason training until August 2nd," Wenger said.

"It will be hard for us just to qualify for the Champions League with such little preparation time and without some of our main players."

It is still open to question as to whether Cole will return at all given his row with the club over last year's ' tapping up' controversy and rumoured interest from Chelsea.

But former team-mate Dennis Bergkamp today urged Arsenal to patch up their differences with the just-married defender.

Speaking ahead of his testimonial against Ajax on Saturday, the inaugural event at the Emirates Stadium, the retired Dutchman said: "I'm a strong believer in players who come through the youth system. That's what happened to me at Ajax , where I started when I was 12, and I believe it gives a team something special. It is also special for the fans because they have someone who is one of them - they feel more part of a club if a player comes through the ranks.

"Apart from that he is a fantastic player and I watched in the World Cup how good he is. The way he played summed up the English mentality for me."

Bergkamp also insists that Chelsea will be given more of a run for their money by Arsenal and other big clubs this season. …

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