Fabregas wary of Alkmaar


ALKMAAR, October 19- Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas is determined to ensure his side don't underestimate AZ Alkmaar in the Champions League on Tuesday.
CESC_FABREGAS_Arsene Wenger’s team are on course for the knockout stages after winning their opening two Group H matches and are heavy favourites to record an eighth successive victory in all competitions when they travel to the Netherlands.

But Spanish midfielder Fabregas believes Arsenal’s narrow success over Standard Liege in their first group game, in which the Gunners came from two goals down to win 3-2, should serve as a warning not to rest on their laurels at the DSB Stadium.

The north London outfit were also made to sweat until the closing stages of their last European tie, against Olympiakos, before finally securing the points.

"We have six points from two games in the group and if you think about the position we were in after just four minutes of our opening game, it shows how quickly football changes," Fabregas said.

"You must stay focused every day to be the best, because everyone else out there wants to be the best too.

"People expect the so-called smaller teams to be easy, but especially away from home those games are tough.

"They are usually fresher than the English or the Spanish teams because maybe their own league is not as intense."

Key to victory on Tuesday will be Arsenal’s ability to maintain the attacking verve that has cut through so many defences in recent weeks.

Birmingham were the latest victims of Arsenal’s incisive passing on Saturday as Wenger’s side cruised to a 3-1 win.

Fabregas, 22, knows his side can afford to be patient if they don’t get an early goal because players like Andrey Arshavin and Robin van Persie are always capable of creating a chance out of nothing.

"Even if the chances were not going in, I was not worried because you could see the focus of the players," he said.

"Sometimes when things do not go so well for you, it can get into your head and you do not play your normal game.

"But against Olympiacos we carried on playing football, and kept it simple. As a result, eventually the goals came.

"There are so many players who can make the difference, and it has always been like that since I have been here.

"We have to keep doing that – be strong going forward while also defending as a team. We need the balance."

Unlike most of his Arsenal team-mates, Dutch forward van Persie knows plenty about Alkmaar.

Now under the guidance of former Holland defender Ronald Koeman, AZ are currently bottom of the group with just one point, but van Persie doesn’t expect them to be intimidated by the Gunners.

"AZ have lots of potential in their side, they really try to play football, they are not scared and they have a few good strikers there," Van Persie said.

"I am convinced, though, if we give everything, close them down and play sharp, we will beat them."

Wenger will be without Theo Walcott in Holland after the England winger suffered a knee injury against Birmingham. The French coach must also decide whether to bring goalkeeper Manuel Almunia back into the side ahead of Vito Mannone.