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CL away win is crucial - Wenger
Published : 26 Sep 2010 09:06:00
Arsene Wenger knows the importance of recording a first away European victory in more than a year when Arsenal travel to Partizan Belgrade. The Gunners opened their Group H campaign with a 6-0 demolition of Braga at Emirates Stadium a fortnight ago. The Serbians - who failed to win any of their home games when they were last in the tournament during 2003-04 and lost their first match of this year's effort 1-0 at Shakhtar Donetsk - are expected to go the same way against Wenger's free-scoring side. With what is set to be a first genuine test of their Barclays Premier League title credentials away to leaders Chelsea next Sunday afternoon, both the result and the performance in Belgrade take on an extra significance. "It is important to get a good result against Partizan Belgrade because first of all, it gives us a good opportunity to qualify if we can then win our home game afterwards," said Wenger, whose team lost their quarter-final against Barcelona in April and last won a Champions League away fixture at Standard Liege during September 2009. "As well, it is important before going to Chelsea that we have a good performance." Arsenal head to Serbia without captain Cesc Fabregas, who has a hamstring problem, and also centre-half Thomas Vermaelen, who is struggling with an Achilles injury. England left-back Kieran Gibbs, meanwhile, has an outside chance of being available for the European tie after scans revealed his foot injury suffered in the midweek Carling Cup victory at Tottenham was just severe bruising and not another broken a metatarsal. Arsenal have opened the new campaign in decent form, also smashing six goals past Blackpool and four against Bolton in the Premier League. Cameroon international Alex Song believes much of that success is down to the link-up play with the midfield. "We have more people behind the attack now," he said. "When we have the ball, we can go forward and help create things, but I think we now have a midfield which can switch over quickly when we lose the ball and look quite solid. "It is important for the midfield to have that good balance, and I think this shape has started well for us. We are enjoying playing this way. "We started playing very well and just need to keep working on the way we are set up in training." In Fabregas' absence, it looks set to be another chance for Jack Wilshere to impress. The 18-year-old earned his first senior England cap at the start of the season, and looks to make this his breakthrough campaign, having set the record as the club's youngest player in Europe when featuring against Dynamo Kiev during November 2008. "Jack did very well last season at Bolton and has come back looking more confident - you have seen that in the last few weeks," said Song, himself now a seasoned campaigner at the age of just 23. "We know what a good player he is - he is very young but has already shown good quality. "It is good news for everybody and shows how good our Academy and the development of young players is."