Wenger Post Match Reaction: We Are In The Title Race

arsene-wenger-afcArsène Wenger spoke to the media after his side’s 3-0 victory over Manchester United and here are some of his comments:

on a good end to a difficult week…
We won our last Premier League game 5-2 and we won here 3-0 so in the Premier League we have scored eight goals in two games against two difficult opponents. Overall it was a convincing performance. It was a strong response against Manchester United following our disappointment on Tuesday night. It shows the group is very united and very strong as well and from goalkeeper to No 9 everybody played very well, which is what you want.

on the performances today…
Everybody was very good today. Alexis was very efficient on top of that.

on Tuesday’s response…
That is what you want in games of that stature. I believe in the [first half] we started very strong and decided to press very high and play with great pace, and we did that very well. After in the second half we decided to be disciplined, control the result and we did that very well. We had two aspects in our game that was pleasing and we were convincing today. It gives us a strong answer to all the questions raised in the week.

on not beating Manchester United in the Premier League for a while…
We won last year in a very important FA Cup game at Old Trafford, so we won last year. For us it was a massive game when we were in the FA Cup. It is true that they won here last year and it is true as well that for a few years in the Premier League we did not win against them but it just shows if you turn up with the right performance you win.

on Arsenal’s response…
I’ve been at the club for 19 years and I know what you want is a strong response in a big game when you have a big disappointment. But we [took it in] perspective and focused on what it is important. It’s us and not too much what was said and we focused on what is important in the game and that is part of being at the top level. The pressure on any disappointment today is massive and it’s maybe a little bit more difficult to deal with it but we did well.

on Walcott…
I must say Walcott had a hugely committed performance today in a hugely convincing way. He didn’t score but I like to praise the strikers when they don’t score and contribute and give assists. He was involved in two goals – Ozil’s and Alexis’ [second] one. He did really fight today and showed he can fight, commit and protect the ball as well. He is gaining some aspects of his game as a centre forward and they are improving.

on if that was Walcott’s best performance for the club…
In this position, certainly. The day he was injured here he had a great game against Tottenham and I would put that up there.

on if Walcott as a No 9 convinces…
Yes, I was always. You were not convinced. When a guy plays well it is always easy to find people who were convinced.

on Bellerin…
He has improved defensively and I think his defensive performance was average against Olympiacos, like most of our players on Tuesday night. On that front we responded very well and he was part of that. He is very good in transition from defence to attack but even in the air he was good today and he won some surprising headers. He is 20 years old and when you look at what he is doing already I think he has a great future.

on maintaining the form…
My plan is to pray now that everyone comes back from international games without any injury because we have a small group. We play at Watford straight away and on Tuesday night here against Bayern Munich. We will need the same kind of performance.

on making a statement in the title race…
To win in a big game is always a statement. We are in in it, we are two points off the league leaders, Manchester City, so I hope that result today will give us belief to fight for it.

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Rampant Arsenal Up To Second In Table

alexis-sanchezThat training ground rollicking must have worked as Arsenal put together a 20-minute spell at the start of Sunday’s match with Manchester United were they carved United open time and time again on their way to a 3-0 victory.

Alexis Sanchez’s sublime backheel-flick at the near post opened the scoring in the sixth minute, and Mesut Ozil doubled the lead a minute later when he coolly curled the ball home after being set up by Theo Walcott.

Sanchez’s second was a fierce shot from the edge of the area in the 20th after a quick Arsenal passing move. It was Sanchez’s fifth goal in two league matches after his hat trick against Leicester last week.

“That 25-minute period, no one could have dealt with us,” said striker Theo Walcott, who set up Ozil’s goal and was a constant threat with his pace up front. “That sends a message to the Premier League that we’re here to be reckoned with.”

The Gunners leapfrogged United into second place with 16 points, two behind leading Manchester City. United is just behind Arsenal on goal difference.

United entered the weekend as the league leader but couldn’t cope with Arsenal’s quick passing and high tempo as the Gunners looked like a completely different team to the one that lost 3-2 to Olympiakos at home in the Champions League in midweek.

“We were good because we decided to start strong, to press high,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “When we do that we can score goals, we know that.”

All three goals came after well-worked passing moves. For the first one, Ozil received a pass near the byline and cut the ball back to Sanchez, who with his back to goal flicked it inside the near post. Less than a minute later, Ozil set Walcott free on a run down the left. Walcott drew the attention of four defenders in the box before passing back to the unmarked Ozil, who curled in with his left foot.

The third came after Aaron Ramsey combined with Walcott to feed Sanchez, who ran across the edge of the area and cut onto his right foot before firing into the far right corner.

Ramsey missed a chance to net a fourth before Petr Cech had to make his first real save just before halftime. Anthony Martial spun around Per Mertesacker inside the area and fired low, forcing Cech into a first-class save with his left foot.

Van Gaal made a double substitution at halftime, bringing on Marouane Fellaini and Antonio Valencia for the ineffective Matteo Darmian, who struggled at right back against Sanchez’s pace, and Memphis Depay.

The visitors had several chances to get back into the match in the second half, but Cech made a comfortable save from Ashley Young’s shot in the 49th and then stopped a side-footed shot from Wayne Rooney in the 62nd.

Wenger said he called on his team to respond to Tuesday’s defeat.

“I’m 19 years at the club, and what I know is that you need a strong response in an important game,” he said.

Wenger singled out Walcott for praise, saying even though the striker didn’t score, his assists and overall contribution were vital to the victory. It was Walcott’s “best performance” as a striker, Wenger said.


Pressure Getting To Wenger

Arsene-Wenger-pensiveArsene Wenger threatened to walk out of his weekly press conference on Friday after being questioned over his team selection for the Champions League defeat by Olympiacos.

Wenger, clearly showing the strain after a damaging midweek reversal, insisted both David Ospina and Petr Cech are world class and that he feels comfortable selecting either goalkeeper.

He refused to respond to speculation the loss left him under pressure following Jose Mourinho’s jibe earlier in the week and then threatened to end the media briefing.

‘Looking at Ospina and Petr Cech I trhink I have two world-class goalkeepers and it’s the easiest choice I have to make because I can pick any of the two and I am very comfortable,’ he said.

‘It’s the most difficult as well because both are two world-class players and always you have to leave one out.

‘I am accountable on the results of my team and the way they play football.’

When pushed further about whether he had ‘more information’ about why Cech did not play, Wenger hit back at Sky Sports News reporter Andy Burton who was asking the questions.

‘I don’t know anything that you do in your job. You make decisions and you have more information than I have and it’s exactly the same in my job.

‘You come to the came and assess. Was I right or wrong. I never criticize that. I accept your judgement of how the team played and your assessment. But I don’t have to give you all the information regarding my decisions.’

Wenger also refused to answer the question of who would start against Manchester United on Sunday, instead criticising the press for ‘a lack of creativity’ and questioning their knowledge of the game.

‘We have two days training,’ he said. ‘Do not come always back with that same story. I think you lack a bit of creativity in the press at the moment and you follow a bandwagon. It’s very boring.

‘I don’t go along with that. If you have an interesting question I will answer but apart from that let’s not always come back to the same story. Come to the game on Sunday and you will see who’s in the goal.

‘I think you have not watched well the game on Tuesday night. To come always with the same story.

‘You can put the goalkeeper you want in the goal. He can make a mistake and you have to accept that.

‘If you watched really the game and you come to the conclusion we lost because of Ospina I question your knowledge in football.’

And things turned sour when Mourinho’s comments – that Wenger was the only manager in England not under pressure, were put to him.

‘Stop that story or we stop the press conference,’ Wenger responded.

Arsenal’s Champions League status hangs in the balance after the defeat by Olympiacos, which saw Ospina make a catastrophic mistake, dropping a corner over his own goal line under little pressure.

Arsenal fought back to 2-2, but almost immediately conceded a third goal, leaving them pointless after two group games, and with back-to-back fixtures against Bayern Munich to come.

Wenger’s side have not failed to reach the second round of Europe’s elite competition since 2000.

The disappointing result came after Jose Mourinho had questioned Wenger’s position at Arsenal, about which the Arsenal manager was also not prepared to talk.

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Wenger Lays Into Arsenal Stars After Champions League Flop

Arsene-Wenger-pensiveNeil Ashton in the Daily Mail is reporting that Arsene Wenger accused his under-achieving Arsenal stars of lacking passion and desire during a fiery training ground inquest on Wednesday into their shambolic 3-2 defeat against Olympiacos.

The Arsenal manger, under mounting pressure following a second successive defeat in the group stage of the Champions League, criticised his players for their work-rate, intensity and attitude.

Wenger rarely raises his voice with the players, but they were left in no doubt during their usual debrief at their London Colney training centre that he expects them to raise their standards following the shocking nature of the defeat.

Arsenal face Bayern Munich, who beat Dinamo Zagreb 5-0 on Tuesday evening inside the Allianz Arena, in their next two games in the competition and face an embarrassing early exit from the European Cup.

First team players were surprised by the nature of Wenger’s criticism, but they have little to complain about after failing to beat the Greek champions at the Emirates.

Although the meeting is traditionally designed for players to air their views in a healthy exchange with coaching staff, this time they sat in silence and accepted Wenger’s frustrations.

Wenger maintained his own unique style by refusing to single out individuals during the meeting, but the first team squad have been left in no doubt that he expects them to raise their standards.

Arsenal have a massive game at home to Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester United on Sunday at the Emirates and Wenger needs a big performance from his players.

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Now Koscielny Is Doubtful For United Match

Koscielny And MertA bad evening has turned worse with the news that Laurent Koscielny is a major injury doubt for Arsenal clash with Manchester United on Sunday.

The French defender made a sliding challenge in the second half and immediately rubbed the bag of his right leg. He was immediately substituted and went straight down the tunnel with Per Mertesacker coming on in his place.

In his press conference after Arsenal lost 3-2 to Olympiakos, Wenger confirmed Koscielny had suffered a hamstring injury, which is an injury that takes weeks to recover from, not days.

Koscielny joins a lengthening injury list which includes Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini and long-term absentees Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck. Petr Cech could also be a doubt for Sunday after his could only make the bench for tonight’s match due to a calf injury.



Wenger Defends Ospina Selection

ospina-arsnalArsene Wenger was quizzed on his goalkeeper selection following Arsenal’s Champions League defeat to Olympiacos.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has defended his decision to select David Ospina over Petr Cech in Tuesday’s 3-2 defeat to Olympiacos in the Champions League.

Wenger’s decision to select the Colombian for the Group F clash backfired spectacularly as Ospina dropped the ball over the goal line from a corner to put Olympiacos 2-1 up.

Having suggested a calf injury had kept Cech out pre-match, Wenger staunchly defended his decision to play Ospina instead of Cech in the must-win game saying afterwards:

“A goalkeeper can make a mistake but it doesn’t explain why we lose.

“Look, that is always the simple thing you know. Ospina played 19 games last season and kept 14 clean sheets.

“Last week at Tottenham he had a fantastic game”, Wenger continued.

“No ‘keeper is mistake free. It could have happened to Petr Cech as well, that’s part of it.

“I don’t give you why. I don’t have to sit here and give you an explanation about every decision I make.”

Wenger can spin it however he wants, but the bottom line is that in a cannot afford to win game he went with a back-up goalkeeper and it possibly cost the Gunners a place in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Wenger claimed that an inability to stay tight at the back following Sanchez’s equaliser was to blame for his side’s defeat – with back-to-back losses making hopes of progression appear gloomy with consecutive fixtures against Bayern Munich to come.

“[Qualification] is still possible but it’s difficult to swallow losing a game like that,” he added.

“It was a combination of a lack of defensive concentration, good defending from Olympiacos and also bad luck as well.

“They had four shots on goal and we conceded three, it’s difficult to swallow. I felt it was a typical game where you dominate but you have to absolutely be focused and not make the task more difficult.

“At 2-2, we gave them another goal straight away and if we stay at 2-2 for five minutes more we win the game.

“It took a while to get into the game because we had a very intense game on Saturday but the second half was the turning point.

“We put effort in but everything went against us tonight.”


Gunners Champions League Dreams Hanging By Thread

updated-champions-league-trophyBack-up goalkeeper David Ospina had a night to forget as Arsenal lost 3-2 at home to Olympiacos to leave their Champions League hopes hanging by a thread.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger had warned his side they already faced a must-win tie following their opening Group F loss at Dinamo Zagreb.

The Barclays Premier League side were behind against the run of play on 32 minutes when a low shot from Felipe Pardo deflected off Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Although Theo Walcott netted a quick equaliser, Arsenal found themselves trailing again when Ospina, chosen ahead of Petr Cech, dropped a corner over the line.

Alexis Sanchez levelled on 65 minutes, but Arsenal hit the self-destruct button once more as Olympiacos immediately scored through substitute Alfred Finnbogason to give the Greeks a first win in England at the 13th attempt.

Arsenal are now bottom of the group, and face a daunting double header against leaders Bayern Munich.

It had been a positive start as Arsenal looked dangerous on the break through Oxlade-Chamberlain, who fired into the side netting, and Walcott, leading the attack as Olivier Giroud was suspended.

The visitors, though, took a shock lead on 33 minutes.

A corner from the right was cut back to the edge of the penalty area, where Pardo drilled in a low shot, which took a massive deflection off the heel of Oxlade-Chamberlain and flew past Ospina.

Arsenal were level within three minutes.

Sanchez got away down the left, and fed Walcott, who beat the offside trap before cutting a low shot goalwards, which squirmed under goalkeeper Jimenez Roberto into the far corner.

No sooner had Arsenal recovered, they hit the self-destruct button again.

A corner from the right was floated in by Kostas Fortounis, which Ospina jumped to collect, but inexplicably patted the ball down behind the line and the goal was immediately awarded by the Dutch fifth official Danny Makkelie despite replays proving inconclusive.

Arsenal aimed to regroup for the second half, but lacked a decisive pass in the final third.

There was an enforced change on 56 minutes when centre-back Laurent Koscielny had to be replaced by Per Mertesacker after picking up what looked like a hamstring injury following a sliding tackle.

Arsenal came close to an equaliser on 60 minutes when Sanchez was played in behind on the right, and his cross into the six-yard box was deflected on to the keeper.

The rebound fell to Mertesacker, whose low shot was saved, with Santi Cazorla smashing the ball goalwards, only for Omar Elabdellaoui to head off the line.

Arsenal remained on the front foot, and equalised on 65 minutes.

Walcott floated the ball in from the right, and Sanchez guided a cushioned header into the far corner.

However, the Emirates Stadium was silenced within a minute as Olympiacos regained the lead.

Arsenal failed to clear from the edge of their own penalty area, and the ball was put back in by Pardo, with substitute Finnbogason clipping it past Ospina at the near post.

Slowly, the home side regained some momentum, with a 25-yard free-kick from Mesut Ozil saved at full stretch by Roberto.

Arsenal, though, could not find a way back into the tie, and now face an uphill battle to qualify for the knockout stages.


Wenger: Olympiakos Is A Must-Win Game

updated-champions-league-trophyArsenal manager Arsene Wenger warned his side are already facing a must-win game in only their second Champions League group match against Olympiakos at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners host the Olympiakos, who have won all of their five domestic fixtures in the Greek league, needing to recover from a disappointing opening Group F defeat away to Dinamo Zagreb, where striker Olivier Giroud was sent off.

With a double-header next against Bayern Munich, Wenger concedes Wednesday’s contest now leaves no margin for further error.

“You have to win your home games if you want to qualify from the group stage, it is simple as that,” he said. “We cannot afford to drop points now against anyone at home.”

Wenger added: “Olympiakos dominates their league, they are a team with a big advantage — they dominate their league easily, so they can prepare for these kinds of games.

“They are well organised and have some players who know the Premier League, like [Esteban] Cambiasso and [Pajtim] Kasami who both played in England.”

Arsenal host Premier League leaders Manchester United on Sunday, but that will not impact on Wenger’s team selection, although goalkeeper David Ospina could again be preferred to Petr Cech.

Wenger said: “We play on Tuesday night and then Manchester United on Sunday, five days is no problem. It is more about what happens before.

“Some players had two tough games at Tottenham and at Leicester where they were a high level physically. I will have to analyse that and make my decisions.”


Wenger: Sanchez Back To His Best

alexis-sanchezArsene Wenger has warned Arsenal’s English Premier League rivals that the Gunners have Alexis Sanchez back in the groove and ready to lead their charge.

Gunners forward Sanchez inspired a 5-2 win at Leicester on Saturday that, combined with Manchester City’s defeat at Tottenham, left Wenger’s men just three points behind new leaders Manchester United. Sanchez bagged a hat-trick to open his account for the season and signal the end of a below-par start to the campaign from the Chile international.

And Wenger believes Sanchez is back up to speed following his close-season efforts at the Copa America, while his team are ready to challenge City, United and champions Chelsea for the title. “Sanchez is back to his level. He won a big competition with Chile – the Copa America – and to adjust again to a competitive level when you come back takes some time,” said Wenger.

“We could see in training already a different player in the last week or two. He showed that in this game and overall I thought we always looked dangerous going forwards. I think I have plenty of players who are world class but you always have to understand what the definition of that is. Overall he is a striker who is mobile and works hard for the team and when the team plays well he can score goals.”

Sanchez’s treble, plus goals from Theo Walcott and substitute Olivier Giroud, gave Arsenal the perfect response to last weekend’s ill-tempered 2-0 defeat at Chelsea. Now Wenger’s men, who also won at local rivals Tottenham in the League Cup in midweek, are targeting a similar reaction in the UEFA Champions League, where they host Greek side Olympiakos on Tuesday looking for an improvement on their 2-1 defeat at Dinamo Zagreb in their first European outing of the season. They could welcome back Francis Coquelin from a knee injury but they will be without Mathieu Flamini, who limped off in the first half at the King Power Stadium.

Jamie Vardy gave Leicester a 13th-minute lead but Walcott levelled for the Gunners five minutes later before Sanchez struck three times to make it 4-1. Vardy’s second goal of the game a minute from full-time made it 4-2 and put him at the top of the Premier League goalscoring charts with six for the season. But Giroud scored for the Gunners in stoppage-time to cap a win that ended Leicester’s unbeaten start to the season.

“We are sad because we wanted to continue to be unbeaten but I think when you play against Arsenal, United, Chelsea, City, that’s bonus points for us if we get anything,” Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri said. “It’s important to learn something but now the reaction is important in the next match. The players showed the maximum character.

“The quality of the Arsenal players is a very high level. We tried to do our best and created good chances and some were unlucky. It’s important how we react in the next match now. Sanchez is fantastic. I’ve known him since when he played in Italy and when he plays at this level he is an amazing player and can do everything. The ball and him are both together.”


Walcott Believes Arsenal Will Be Feared When They Hit Top Form

Walcott’s heat map against Stoke.

Arsenal forward Theo Walcott believes the rest of the Premier League should fear the Gunners when they find form this season, as per the club’s official website.

The North London club recorded their third win of the campaign against Stoke City on Saturday, winning 2-0, courtesy of goals from Walcott and Olivier Giroud.

But the England international feels teams are yet to see what the Gunners are capable of and they must concentrate on building momentum by clinching as many points as possible.

“It’s all about results at this moment in time, getting the three points. No one is going to remember the start of the season,” said the 26-year-old.

“When we do hit form people will be more and more worried. I’m sure of that. So this Arsenal team can go far if we really actually believe in it, and a lot of the players do at the moment.”

Walcott scored for the first time this season against Mark Hughes’ side, as he started ahead of Olivier Giroud who later replaced him after 74 minutes.

Walcott took eight shots at Jack Butland’s goal, managing five attempts on target. He created no chances and attempted no take-ons during the game but his goal, coming from an expertly worked assist by Mesut Ozil, will have boosted his confidence.

Fellow striker Giroud scored the second goal of the game, heading home from a Santi Cazorla free-kick near the left-hand side of the penalty area.

Arsenal travel to Croatia to face Dinamo Zagreb tomorrow night in the first Champions League group stage fixture of the season.

Manager Arsene Wenger will be keen to rest key players ahead of Saturday’s early kick-off at Stamford Bridge. Walcott will likely start up front and Joel Campbell could feature against the Croatian outfit.