OBSERVATIONS: Arsene Wenger watches the action during last Sunday's match
ARSENE WENGER was philosophical following Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Manchester City at the Emirates stadium on Sunday.
His side twice went behind when firstly Leroy Sane and then Sergio Aguerro gave City the lead. Theo Walcott had given the Gunners parity, for all of two minutes when Aguerro struck, and after 53 minutes Shkodran Mustafi rose to head in Mesut Oil’s corner for the leveller. Despite City laying siege to David Ospina’s goal, there was no further addition to the scoreline, and substitute Alex Iwobi could have won it for the Gunners, but he skied a pass from Hector Bellerin.
“Overall, we started with quite a high level of anxiety. We were punished straight away, so it was a mental test. You could see that the team were touched on the confidence front and that the fluency in our game suffered. We have shown great mental resources because we went a goal down twice and one time it was at the worst moment in a game, just before half-time. On top of that, we lost Koscielny at half-time.
"In the second half we came back to 2-2, so it will help us to rebuild confidence because we have certainly shown some mental strength. That will help us to come back to our natural fluency. Mathematically, for both teams it’s not the best operation, not for City, not for us. We can think about mathematics when the confidence is there again, but hopefully that will help us restart now,” said Wenger.
The way his team were routinely opened up by a straight long ball will have alarmed Wenger, who knows going an early goal down never inspires a team who have so many contractual variable hanging over it, but more of that later.
HOPEFUL: Theo Walcott, centre, celebrating a goal with team mates
And what of Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka? The former is a class player on his day, but a luxury the side cannot carry when he doesn’t fancy it. The latter seems to be a mistimed scissor tackle away from a red card, and neither are performing at anywhere approaching their level. And excuse me, but didn’t you used to be Hector Bellerin, that class right back who raced everyone off the park? Oh you did! So why the new hairstyle and the new downgraded performances of late?
For once it seems that a Champions League spot may prove to be beyond the Gunners who are seven points adrift of fourth placed City albeit with a game in hand. Will Arsenal have to win their remaining ten games to be in Europe’s top competition next season?
"I don’t know. If you look at yesterday’s results, it’s very difficult to predict what will happen in the last 10 games. What we want is to come back to win our games. How many do we need to win to finish in the top four? I don’t know.
“I care about my team. When you have the experience I have, you have a good measure of the level of the anxiety in the team. We were under pressure. It’s difficult because you are more mentally tested than anything else, and I think we coped with that in a united and strong way,” continued Wenger.
There were rumours of infighting among the Arsenal fans pre-match, but Wenger said he wasn’t aware of them, and indeed inside the stadium, there was a what you could term a normal Emirates’ crowd of late, nervous yet supportive of the team.
READY: Danny Welbeck on the pitch
“I must say, despite all what happens on the fans front, I felt out fans were fantastic today. In very difficult moments in the game I felt that our fans - at 1-0 down, at 2-1 down - could have turned against us. I think they were absolutely sensational and helped the team to get through those difficult moments."
Arsenal welcome West Ham in a must win mid-week clash for both sides and for different reasons. Both Wenger and Slaven Bilic are feeling the pressure as we enter the final phase of the Premier League season, and Wenger will be happy to play another fixture so soon after the City game.
“Yes, we need now to prepare well and focus on Wednesday. We are professional and at our level you want to perform in the next game. Hopefully a point today, I am confident that will help us to rebuild confidence."
Arsenal will be without Laurent Koscielny who was replaced by Gabriel at half time against City with an Achilles injury.
“I don’t know how long Koscielny will be out for. He came off at half-time with an Achilles problem. How long will that last? I don’t know. Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain have a chance of being available on Wednesday.”
With so much conjecture on his own future at Arsenal, Wenger himself has said he knows the scenario that will transpire, and will reveal all soon. That wasn’t to be after the City draw, so my enquiring that should he stay, would he welcome the addition of say Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira or Dennis Bergkamp to work alongside him was batted straight back.
Whoever comes in, Wenger said he wished them every success, and he will support them. That says everything and nothing really, so are one of the above Arsenal trio on their way?
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