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wenger: we are on the UP

ARSENE Wenger is convinced that Arsenal are a rising force in European football and that this season's Champions League campaign gives him the perfect opportunity to prove it.

"I believe we are in a better shape. I am convinced of that. We feel as a team that we are on the way up and we can use the Champions League to confirm that. I look around Europe today and there are 10 teams who believe they can win it."

Hosting his old club Monaco at the Emirates tonight, Wenger shrugged aside any suggestion that Arsenal ended up with the plum draw for this round.

"Now it is more difficult than 10 or 15 years ago because there are more candidates," he said. "Certainly there are more in England, but it is a cup competition. It's a 180-minutes game, not a 90-minutes game, but it is still cup."

"That means belief, commitment and being in a good period when you play the game," he added. "Easy is a word that you have to ban in the Champions League."

"They are efficient and physically powerful. That helps them to stay in matches when they are under pressure. Monaco are like a reptile. They will wait for us and absorb the game ready to kill us."