Arsène Wenger believes his side are now better equipped to deal with the physical demands of the English game.

The Gunners withstood a major challenge to record a hard-fought victory against Stoke City on Saturday, with Lukas Podolski scoring the only goal of the game.

But it was the no-nonsense performance of his defenders that really caught the eye of the Arsenal manager.

“We are a bit more mature now, but we dealt well with [Stoke’s game plan],” Wenger said. “Crouch is a handful because he is not only physical, he is technically very good. He uses space well and in his link-play he is an international player. Overall I think we had a serious game.

In Sagna, Nacho, Koscielny and Mertesacker we have some experience and stature there. We are not small at the back

“We were a bit younger and inexperienced [in the past] but defensively today you could see that in Sagna, Nacho, Koscielny and Mertesacker we have some experience and stature there. We are not small at the back.

“In England you have to deal with all types of football without losing your qualities in how you want to play. It is not always easy, because if you have a team of 10 Santi Cazorla's technically you would be very good but against a team like Stoke you would struggle.”

Wenger has also been pleased with Theo Walcott’s physical progression and his ability to stand up to the heaviest of challenges.

“He is 23 years old and there is always a change at that age,” he said. “What people forget is that Theo does everything at 100mph, so every time you get hit it hurts you more than if you are slow.

“He plays at high pace, but he has learnt to escape sometimes and he imposes himself more. He uses his body better now.”

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source Rob Kelly 4 Feb 2013