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ARSENE WENGER has challenged his Arsenal side to prove they can become all-time greats.

Wenger's Gunners face Celta Vigo in the Champions League tonight as they look to move a step closer to an incredible Treble.

And the Highbury chief confessed that he wants to see a team of his own playing in the manner of the great Ajax 'Total Football' side that conquered Europe in the 1970s.

Arsenal's magnificent football in recent weeks has captured the public imagination and while Wenger has warned his players against taking things for granted - as they did in the latter stages of the weekend's FA Cup exhibition at Portsmouth - he revealed his ambitions.

Wenger said: "Ajax were certainly a team I loved to watch. They were the first team that did that for my generation."They had perfect players everywhere and that was the sort of football I wanted to be playing myself.

"We have to be faithful to the quality of game we love. I want my players to enjoy the game and for the people who come to watch us to enjoy it. That football is a characteristic of these players as well.

"I loved watching Ajax, although you don't try to copy. We have a team based on movement and technique. We know we're mobile and technically good.

"The most important thing is that the team has the same vision of the game and wants to improve. We try to play the game we like and I like. Every year, style-wise, we look to have moved forward.

"But there's no comparison between us and Ajax and AC Milan yet because we haven't achieved what those clubs did. They each won three European Cups."

That Ajax side, which included Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens, Ruud Krol and Arie Haan, was the basis of Rinus Michels' Dutch side that should have won the 1974 World Cup.

Their conquerors, West Germany, were based on the Bayern Munich team skippered by Franz Beckenbauer which also won three successive European Cups.

Yet while Wenger wants his men to echo their achievements, he wants to do it in Ajax's style, not Bayern's.

He said: "At the end you are judged by trophies. Bayern won everything and you have to respect that - whether you liked the football they played or not.

"The great teams are remembered for winning with style."

Arsenal's football currently has a vibrancy about it that Brazilian World Cup-winning midfielder Gilberto admits is similar to that of the South Americans.

Gilberto said: "Everybody knows what to do. We play simple football and go forward like the boss wants us to.

"If Arsenal played Brazil it would be a great match. It would be special for everyone because of the quality. I don't know who would win but we do play a similar sort of game."

Wenger will restore Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp to the starting line-up tonight as his side defends a 3-2 first leg advantage.


ON YOUR MARKS: Thierry Henry and Lauren tangle in training yesterday
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 10, 2004
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