Arsene Wenger boosted by Arsenal's squad options
Published 20/03/2016 | 13:26
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes greater selection options have allowed him to get a better balance in his side.
Wenger had some doubts about the ability of striker Danny Welbeck to manage back-to-back starts, having previously spent so long out injured, but the England international justified his inclusion with the opening goal in a 2-0 win at Everton.
Teenager Alex Iwobi also rewarded Wenger for giving him his first Premier League start with a maiden goal, while January signing Mohamed Elneny showed he has adapted to English football with a composed performance in midfield.
The win ensured a disappointing week of FA Cup and Champions League exits ended on a high and dampened down some of the criticism being aimed at Wenger and his players.
"If you lose it is disastrous but we were not as bad as that," said the Gunners boss, whose side remain 11 points behind leaders Leicester with a match in hand.
"We were backs-to-the-wall and responded well. I am pleased mentally we responded under pressure.
"We have a game based on movement, mobility, technical level and attacking football and we have to get the balance right.
"Sometimes it is not right. Let us not forget some players were out for the whole season basically.
"Welbeck was just coming back, Iwobi is just coming into the side and Elneny is giving us good balance, and we just bought him in January."
Defender Hector Bellerin, whose quick pass released Iwobi for the second goal just before half-time, thinks, despite their disappointments this week, they are actually playing well.
And a win was the ideal way to sign off for the international break.
"The team put on a great performance, especially in the first half with two great goals. That gave us the chance to relax a little bit in the second half," he told Arsenal's official website.
"I think the team has had more purpose with the ball lately and we are playing better football and that is showing on the pitch because we have to defend less, because we are keeping the ball and creating way more chances.
"It is a great time to go on the international break after a win and it's time for the players to recharge their batteries because it is the last bit of the season and it is important for us."
For Everton the opposite was true as, after knocking Chelsea out of the FA Cup to book a Wembley semi-final, they produced an insipid performance noticeably lacking bite in midfield.
With defensive linchpin Gareth Barry suspended, the Toffees were totally dominated in midfield as Arsenal had free run of Goodison Park.
That allowed them to score a well-worked first goal just seven minutes in when a 12-pass move culminated with Alexis Sanchez threading the ball through for Welbeck to round goalkeeper Joel Robles.
Everton boss Roberto Martinez has overseen just seven home league wins in the last 12 months and pressure is increasing on the Spaniard despite reaching two semi-finals this season.
"We know the quality we have, we showed it seven days ago," he said when asked to explain the performance.
"It would be very easy for us to look at the absence of Gareth Barry - it was clear we look to the experience of him every time we have a difficult moment.
"We didn't have him there and it was too easy. We have to use the quality in a different way.
"It is a shame now because 80 per cent of the squad is going to go away (on international duty)."
Inconsistency is nothing new for Everton but captain Phil Jagielka insists they cannot allow next month's semi-final to dominate everything.
"We have been trying to find a reason and fathom what goes on but unfortunately it has just not happened," he said.
"It is going to be a long couple of weeks now but it's a nice game to come back to in Manchester United.
"We need to show that in this up-and-down season that this was a down and hopefully next time there will be an up.
"I hope the semi-final doesn't dominate people's thoughts but the league form is slowly but surely drifting away from a position where even with a good run of results together it wouldn't matter.
"We can't let that happen. We need to find momentum, confidence and consistency between now and the end of the season.
"Even when we do play well for a week or two the third week or fourth seems to let us down.
"There is only us that can sort that out and make sure people aren't thinking about the semi-final.
"We need to put some good performances in; to keep your place in the team, you need to perform well."