It's our way - or no way! Wenger won't compromise Arsenal style against Barca

By Matt Barlow for the Daily Mail

Arsene Wenger watched the tape of Barcelona's defeat by Inter Milan. Then he watched it again, searching for the secret to beating a side he considers the best in the world, perhaps the best ever. In the end, Wenger gave up and drew the conclusion that Arsenal's best chance was to stick to their strengths.

However Jose Mourinho had managed to plot an unlikely triumph against the Catalan side in last year's Champions League semi-final, it had little relevance to his own players.

Play it again, Sam: Arsenal midfielder Nasri has been declared fit for the Barcelona clash

Play it again, Sam: Arsenal midfielder Nasri has been declared fit for the Barcelona clash

'If you want us to play with long balls and long throw-ins it would be worse than playing our own game,' said the Gunner manager.

'If you ask Jack Wilshere to head the ball, it will be a problem for him. 'I invite you to watch Barcelona v Inter again. I've watched it twice and I must say Inter were very lucky with some decisions in both games. And don't forget Barcelona had travel problems and went to Inter by coach. I hope they come to London by coach.

'They won the first game, so they were able to hang on in the second and they did well. I don't want to take anything away from Inter but their players are all 30 years old and they've grown up in Italy, where they're educated to play this kind of game, very tactical.

Taken to the cleaners: Messi scored four goals in the Nou Camp when the Gunners last face Barcelona

Taken to the cleaners: Messi scored four goals in the Nou Camp when the Gunners last faced Barcelona

'We are Arsenal. We can only survive with our qualities as individuals and as a team.'

Beating Barcelona is indeed quite an accomplishment. Since the 3-1 defeat by Inter in the San Siro in April (they won the second leg 1-0 but went out on aggregate), Pep Guardiola's team have played 42 times in all competitions, losing only twice.

The first was at home to Hercules in September and the second, last month, was the return leg of a cup-tie against Real Betis, when they were 5-0 up from the first leg. Of those 42 games, Barca have won 34, often with their trademark deluge of goals, brisk tempo and a high-press brand of adventure.

The 5-0 demolition of Real Madrid in November was devastating. 'Barcelona are certainly the best team in the world at the moment,' said Wenger before Wednesday night's Champions League last 16 first leg between the sides at the Emirates.

Doing it his way: Wenger (centre) insists Arsenal won't change their style of play

Doing it his way: Wenger (centre) insists Arsenal won't change their style of play

'I do not deny they may be one of the best teams of all time. They are the best I have faced and any club team at the top level are better than every national team.

'My team want to show we can beat them and I personally believe we can do it. They are certainly the team to beat if you want to be the best and that's our target.

'We want to nullify their strengths. Usually, we have 60 or 70 per cent of the ball but this will be a bit the other way. We have to work hard without the ball. The focus on defending will be vital. We must defend with calmness and determination but when we have the ball we have to play our game. We know we can cause them problems.'

The problem is Arsenal tried to take Guardiola's side on at their own game last season, with chastening consequences. Their 4-1 Champions League defeat at the Nou Camp prompted unflattering comparisons, including the scathing term 'Barca Lite'.

Arsenal v Barcelona

Behind Wenger's positive language yesterday was the desire to soothe psychological scars still itching in his dressing room. Barcelona were wonderful for the opening half-hour of the quarter-final first leg at the Emirates yet somehow failed to win.

Then Nicklas Bendtner struck first in the Nou Camp before the Gunners were blown apart by four Lionel Messi goals.

'Messi was on fire and, unfortunately, he's still on fire,' said Wenger. 'But last year was not the real Arsenal. We are a different team today. We are in ideal condition.'

With Samir Nasri completing a training session yesterday and expected to start his first game since pulling a hamstring last month, Arsenal are likely to line up with only three players who started last April's defeat.

The Gunners went to the Nou Camp without Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song, Robin van Persie and Andrey Arshavin. Jack Wilshere was on loan at Bolton. So Wenger might have a point.

The Arsenal boss stressed the importance of a 3-1 win over Chelsea in December in building self-belief, how Theo Walcott had 'made a big leap forward' and how 20-year-old goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who will make his Champions League debut tonight, had brought confidence to the team.

'He has not been fazed by anything,' said Wenger. 'This is a big game for him because you'd think, once or twice, he may have to do something. He's handling everything well. He is never overawed.'

Only once did Wenger's faith flicker in the slightest, in a light-hearted moment as he stood to leave the press conference and reporters wished him luck. 'Thanks,' said the Frenchman. 'We'll need it.' Then he smiled.