Silvestre relishing responsibility

Veteran Mikael Silvestre is happy to be the elder statesman helping guide a young Arsenal side he feels can grow in stature following their stunning 5-2 Champions League win over Fenerbahce in Istanbul.

Arsene Wenger’s Gunners – who were without injured captain William Gallas plus fellow defenders Kolo Toure and Bacary Sagna – look a huge step towards the knockout stages following an accomplished attacking display at the intimidating Sukru Saracoglu stadium, racing into a 2-0 lead inside the opening 11 minutes.

Silvestre, who put through his own net last night, was making only his second appearance since signing from Manchester United because of a thigh problem.

The 31-year-old, though, maintains he is relishing working alongside such a talented young bunch.

“At United, I didn’t have to shout that much to guide my partners. It is a responsibility, but when I signed for Arsenal I accepted it straight away,” said the former France defender.

“It was not easy to come here with a good atmosphere against us and I think we coped not too bad with the experienced players we played against.

“It was a good game to improve and learn from. Hopefully we can get some consistency.”

Silvestre added on Arsenal TV Online: “We are looking to guarantee that we finish top of this group as early as possible so that we can get ready for the next step.

“Our aim is to play the kind of football that can take us to the final.”

While last night’s thrashing of a team that had not lost at home in 16 European matches may well have sent out a signal of the Gunners’ intent to be serious contenders to reach Rome next May, Wenger maintains it is all about “focus” rather than grabbing headlines.

“We want to improve,” he said. “There are things in our game we want to focus on.

“The next game we face West Ham on Sunday and that is more important than what people say about us.”

Gallas, who suffered a hamstring injury while on international duty with France, could come back into contention for the trip to Upton Park this weekend.

However, fellow centre-back Toure may be looking at a longer lay-off after damaging his shoulder against Everton in the last Premier League game.

He said: “I should be fine in 10 to 15 days, and ready to make a challenge.”

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