Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Wenger on the Defensive as He Backs Squillaci to Help Arsenal Squeak Through

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Wenger on the Defensive as He Backs Squillaci to Help Arsenal Squeak Through

Article excerpt

Byline: James Olley Chief Football Correspondent

COURTESY of the defensive upheaval Arsenal have suffered this season, Sebastien Squillaci has featured more prominently than many expected and tonight he will be charged with ensuring there are no glitches as the Gunners eye a place in the Champions League knock-out stages. The 30-year-old arrived from Sevilla in the summer and was expected to principally provide back up to Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny, this summer's more expensive centre-back import.

But with Vermaelen's on-going struggle with an Achilles problem extending into next year and Johan Djourou available only intermittently following a near season-long absence with a knee injury, Squillaci has featured regularly for the Gunners.

He is set to make his 19th start tonight against Partizan Belgrade and has featured in all of Arsenal's matches in a European campaign that began emphatically but has since hit troubled waters in Braga and Donetsk.

Squillaci inadvertently injured Koscielny as Arsenal continued their trend for donating goals to opponents in Saturday's 2-1 win over Fulham but the 25-year-old has recovered from concussion to resume their partnership tonight.

Victory against inferior opposition -- that will guarantee progress from Group H -- is expected at Emirates Stadium this evening but in such circumstances the Gunners have come unstuck domestically this season.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said: "People focus on our defensive problems but I believe they forget as well that we have the best away record in the Premier League and that means we are defensively quite solid.

"Certainly we want to be a bit more focused on our defensive duties at home, I think it is more down to that than any defensive deficiencies. That's what we want to show in our home games because nobody has a better away record than us.

"You raise always questions when you do not win games at home, which is why our last two games were important and tonight is too.

"I play Squillaci a lot because he has the experience, he can lead the defence. We are as well a team with an offensive philosophy and maybe at home we go overboard with that but I still feel that in the last games we were punished every time we made a single mistake defensively, that will not always be the case. …

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