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Wenger: Gunners to go the distance

Arsene Wenger has no doubts his battle-weary Arsenal squad have the strength to maintain their challenge for honours on all fronts.

The Gunners boss feels, given the importance of the upcoming Premier League fixtures, he has little option but to give some players a "breather" for tomorrow's FA Cup fourth-round tie at Stoke City.

Former captain Sol Campbell could make his first appearance since re-signing for the club, along with fellow veteran Mikael Silvestre, while reserve 'keeper Lukasz Fabianski is poised to come in, with youngsters Jack Wilshere, Kyle Bartley and Francis Coquelin all set to gain some more big-match experience.

Wenger, though, firmly believes his squad has enough depth to make sure a campaign, which promises so much, does not fail to deliver -- Arsenal went top of the table with the midweek 4-2 win over Bolton.

"I want to pick a team which is strong enough to win the game, without ignoring we are under immense physical demands in every single game and some players need to have a breather," said Wenger.

"I feel physically we are one of the strongest teams in the league.

"We are a very mobile team and we can deal with the demands we have in front of us."

Arsenal have hauled themselves back into the title race with seven wins from the nine league games after their 3-0 home defeat by Chelsea at the end of November, which left them some 11 points adrift.

Wenger wants to continue the improvement with a positive result at the Britannia Stadium.

"We want to keep the momentum going," he said. "Do you voluntarily want to interrupt that?

"No, because you never know the consequences it has on the team morale and the belief for the next games.

"We want to go to Stoke, to win the game and get through to the next round.

"We want to be a winning team, and the FA Cup is part of that."

Arsenal's achievement in returning to the top of the league was overshadowed by the furore which surrounded William Gallas' tackle on Wanderers' midfielder Mark Davies.



ANALYSED

The incident has been analysed over and over again, from every conceivable angle, with everyone happy to weigh in with an opinion.

Wenger, who issued an apology on the night for the foul but stressed there was no intent, feels such focus is unnecessary.

"There was a bit of an over-reaction with the way it was treated, yes," said Wenger.

"If it is a bad, malicious tackle I can understand that it is shown every half an hour, but the way that (it) happened, it can happen every game.

"We looked at it carefully and we saw that it was just a mistimed tackle.

"That is why we didn't see why such a story could flare up and make a national story if the intention of the player was completely right."

"Wenger added: "Some people say before the games, 'we know how to play Arsenal, we have to kick them'-- and nobody in the whole country is absolutely upset by that.

"I am always absolutely amazed that people get away with that."

Stoke City v Arsenal

LIVE TOMORROW KO 4.0

(UTV/SETANTA IRELAND)


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