Gunners on Pole to qualify for last 16


ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger has hailed goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny’s part in dragging the Gunners out of their disastrous early-season malaise.

Wenger’s men have amassed 10 wins from their last 12 games to soar back up the Premier League and to the brink of the Champions League knockout stage, which they can reach against Borussia Dortmund tonight.

The confident young Pole’s assurance and solidity has been a major factor in that resurgence, and helped eradicate the running joke that the Emirates Stadium had become a haven for erratic No1s.

“He has done very well,” said Wenger of Szczesny. “What is very positive is that there is a lot more. He works hard in training to improve. He is focused and humble, and like the rest of the team, I think he has a good attitude and spirit.”

Szczesny (left) is known for a self-assurance that borders on cocky, but Wenger believes the 21-year-old, who broke into the first team last term, has another, perhaps less visible, serious side.

“Confidence is a big part in this position because you are always under pressure,” Wenger added. “You are always coming out; any single mistake and everybody knows about it. Confidence is a big part but you need also to find that balance, to question ‘How can I do better?’, and I think he has that.”

German champions Dortmund are also much improved from their shaky start to the campaign and are sure to provide a stern test for Per Mertesacker, who left their Bundesliga rivals Werder Bremen for north London in August. The centre-back’s early form has drawn criticism, but Wenger insists he is “very happy” with him.

“The critics are very harsh indeed,” the Frenchman said. “But we are a big club and we have to accept that. I think he’s strong enough to live with that and it can change very quickly.”


Arsenal will qualify for the last 16 tonight if they beat Dortmund, while a draw would be enough as long as Olympiacos don’t beat Marseille in France. Even if the Gunners lose they will progress with victory over the Greeks in the final round of fixtures. Defeat would eliminate Dortmund, as would a draw if Marseille win.

The German champions lie second in the Bundesliga, and continued an ominous run of domestic form by beating leaders Bayern Munich away at the weekend. They have won their last three games, and seven from nine, but have been notably less potent in Europe, particularly away from home, losing at Marseille and Olympiacos.

Arsenal tried to sign Dortmund wonderkid Mario Goetze in the summer and are still said to be interested in the playmaker, who has six goals in 17 games this season. Polish striker Robert Lewandowski, meanwhile, who is Dortmund’s leading marksman with 12 in 12, has interested Chelsea, according to his agent.