Wenger wants memorable last European tie at Highbury
LONDON, Apr 19 (Reuters) Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes their last European game at Highbury today can join the special memories he holds of the famous old stadium.
The Frenchman wants his team to mark the occasion with a performance against Villarreal that will take them a giant step towards the Champion League final in Paris next month.
The club are moving to their new 60,000 capacity Emirates Stadium next season and Wenger feels the historic nature of this week's first leg, which sees Arsenal playing in their first European Cup semi-final, will spur his young team to success.
''It will help because it is a special occasion for us and we want to be proud of that and we want this game to be remembered as the last European night for the club at Highbury,'' he said.
''It's getting close to the end and every time I walk in there I feel, of course, that there are not many more matches to come. I feel part of my soul is in this stadium because many of the biggest moments of my sports career have been there.
''It will be something special because this stadium has a special soul and to lose it one day will be sad.'' Asked if his main achievement during 10 years in charge at Highbury was the 49-game unbeaten run two seasons ago that secured the Premier League title, Wenger told reporters: BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT ''To go a whole season unbeaten. For me, yes because it is the biggest achievement. You get a trophy because you win the championship. As a manager, you feel the utmost quality is to take the maximum out of the team.'' But the Frenchman believes the performances of his current crop of youngsters, particularly in the Champions League, are similar to those during their 2003/04 title-winning campaign.
''It is comparable, this season, and is a good opportunity for us to show we have improved to deal with that kind of thing,'' said Wenger.
Arsenal have failed to reproduce their Champions League form domestically and are four points behind rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the race for fourth place, albeit with a game in hand.
If they finish outside the Premier League top four Wenger's team would have to beat Villarreal over two legs and then win the Champions League to play in the competition next season.
''We have Villarreal, then Tottenham (Hotspur) on Saturday and then Villarreal again -- in six days we play a big part of our season,'' said Wenger.
''But on the other hand, we could sit in front of the television and watch somebody else play the semi-finals. So you can just love it and enjoy it and think, 'We have worked very hard to get where we are and let's just go for it'.'' REUTERS PG PM0443