Sat, Aug 12, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Henry confident Arsenal's youngsters can win league

KNOW-HOW The Arsenal striker believes the experience the team gained in last year's Champions League will help them as they challenge Chelsea for the Premiership title

AFP , LONDON

Thierry Henry insists Arsenal's young guns can break Chelsea's domestic dominance if they stick together.

Chelsea are strong favorites to win a third consecutive Premiership title this season and few experts believe Arsene Wenger's side are capable of mounting a sustained challenge after a summer of changes in north London.

Sol Campbell, Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires have all departed, while Ashley Cole and Jose Antonio Reyes are both unsettled and looking to join Chelsea and Real Madrid respectively.

Cole looks certain to leave after being left out of the club's official pre-season team-photo, but Arsenal captain Henry, 28, is adamant his team-mates can cope with the loss of those star players and compete for major honors, as long as they show real team spirit.

He said: "I give Chelsea their respect but we are going to try to come at them and make sure we can bring the title here. The last time we won the title was two years ago and we are going to try to find another way to bring the title back."

"At the start everyone is equal. I never start something saying we are playing for second place. If you do, you might as well stop," Henry said. "But if you do not play as a team, whoever you are and whoever you have in your squad, you wont win. People do not mention that enough about Chelsea. There is always talk about the money and players they have but they play as a team and that is why they win."

"That is what we need to do too. Everyone knows when we are in tune we pass the ball well and it is difficult to play against us. Sometimes we need to dig in and have this mentality of playing as a team," he added.

The Gunners reached the Champions League final last season after a remarkable run that included wins over Real Madrid and Juventus and a record-breaking 10 consecutive clean-sheets.

France striker Henry believes that 1-0 win at Real in the last 16 was the moment Wenger's boys became men and proved they could live with the continent's best teams.

He added: "After last season everyone knows now within themselves that they can achieve stuff. We needed a key game, and at Madrid, you saw that we were a different team after that."

"We had to dig in and then when we had the ball, we played. That team was looking for something. When we did it, we looked again like we were a team," he said. "We did not win the Champions League but you can build on that. The team has a past now, even though it was not bringing back a trophy. Some of the young players who came in, they were in an unknown position but now they know they can do a great job."

Arsenal kick off the Premiership campaign at their new ?390 million (US$740 million) Emirates Stadium on Aug. 19 against Aston Villa and Henry reckons it represents a fresh start for the team.

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