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English Premiership

Wenger hails maturing Gunners

LONDON, Nov 5 – Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal are maturing into a force to be reckoned with after the Gunners routed AZ Alkmaar 4-1 to move within touching distance of the Champions League knockout stages.ARSENE_WENGERAfter being widely written off as also-rans following a pre-season marred by the sales of Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure to Manchester City, Wenger’s side are beginning to hit their stride and look increasingly capable of ending their four-year trophy drought.

The Gunners brushed aside Dutch champions Alkmaar in emphatic fashion at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday and need just one point from their final two Group H matches against Standard Liege and Olympiakos to be certain of reaching the last 16.

While Wenger acknowledges that far sterner tests lie in wait later in the competition, he is delighted at the rapid rate of improvement displayed by his young team.

"I believe this season we are getting stronger from game to game. It is important to keep that attitude to progress and improve," he said.

"The competition gets more difficult as you go on but I believe we have quality. I said before the season started I believe in this team but it is down to us to be consistent. We have to believe in our future.

"At the moment, it is difficult to say (how far Arsenal can go). Lets focus on ourselves, be as good as we can and if we meet someone who is better than us we will see.

"We need to focus on how we want to play We have played like we love the game and we want to keep expressing our talent."

With Cesc Fabregas, Andrey Arshavin and Robin van Persie combining to produce some breathtaking moves and Eduardo, Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott all out of the starting eleven, it is not surprising the Gunners boss is anticipating a bright future.

Fabregas opened the scoring, then French midfielder Samir Nasri added to the feelgood factor with his first goal since March on his second appearance since breaking his leg in July.

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Arsenal captain Fabregas added his second soon after half-time before Abou Diaby capped a magnificant move to make it four.

Jeremain Lens’s late strike was little consolation for the completely outclassed Dutch side.

Wenger admits he has never such a wide array of attacking talent – quite a statement for a manager who has been able to call on the likes of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Marc Overmars and Robert Pires during his time in north London.

"Have I ever had as many on the creative side of the game? Certainly not," he said.

"It is our policy to produce our own players and add players with special qualities and (Thomas) Vermaelen and Arshavin are two good examples. Contrary to what people say I am not afraid to spend money.

"We have only players here who can play, pass the ball and score. Arshavin is not just a goalscorer. He can pass as well."

While Arsenal were a class apart from Alkmaar, Ronald Koeman, the Dutch club’s manager, believes the Gunners may not be experienced enough to go all the way just yet.

"It is difficult to say if they can win it. They have a lot of qualities but it is a young team. Maybe they miss the experience that teams like Chelsea and Barcelona have," he said.

"The knockout stage is different. You have to do well in both matches. It depends on the draw. One bad day and you can lose to anybody, but it is very close between several teams and Arsenal can go a long way."

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