Thursday 19 October 2017

Arsene Wenger challenges Arsenal to gamble in top-four bid

Arsene Wenger celebrates Arsenal's narrow win over Leicester
Arsene Wenger celebrates Arsenal's narrow win over Leicester

Arsene Wenger breathed a sigh of relief as Arsenal kept their Champions League qualification hopes alive with a last-gasp victory over Leicester.

The Gunners needed 86 minutes and a large slice of luck to break down the resilient Foxes as an own-goal from Robert Huth snatched a 1-0 win at Emirates Stadium.

It means Wenger's men move four points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, whose next game comes against fifth-placed Manchester United on Thursday.

"Does it keep us in the race for the top four? Yes, we have one advantage and that is the advantage of clarity," Wenger said.

"We have to win our games and so that's why every time we cannot be happy with 0-0. We have absolutely to take the gamble to try to win the game at any cost."

Arsenal dominated Leicester throughout but they lacked a killer pass or a change of pace in the final third.

The winner came from an unlikely source too as full-back Nacho Monreal unleashed a wayward strike, only for the ball to cannon off Huth and into his own net.

The Gunners had been stretched to extra-time in their FA Cup semi-final victory over Manchester City on Sunday and Wenger said the lack of recuperation time perhaps played a part.

"We lacked a bit of change of pace, penetration. You could see we had some heavy legs but we were serious, we didn't give chances away," Wenger said.

"Maybe we lacked a bit of speed in our game to get them out of position but they defended well, Leicester are very difficult to get out of position. In the end the win rewards the team that took the initiative in the game."

Arsenal's victory, however, was blighted somewhat by a knee injury sustained by Laurent Koscielny, who was forced to stay on for the final 10 minutes as Wenger had already used his three substitutes.

Koscielny will be assessed ahead of Sunday's crunch north London derby against Tottenham but any absence would be particularly unwelcome, given Arsenal are already without Shkodran Mustafi in central defence.

"Koscielny has a knee problem but I don't know (how serious it is)," Wenger said. "I have to check."

Leicester threw men forward in search of an equaliser late on and the tension almost spilled over when Christian Fuchs launched a throw-in directly at Alexis Sanchez's head.

The ball struck Sanchez on the shoulder but the striker, who had been standing immediately in front of Fuchs, made out as though it had struck him in the face.

The Chilean was given a yellow card for not being the required two metres away.

"I think he didn't know he had to be further away," Wenger said. "He thought he was in the right position. After that he got a yellow card because he didn't respect the rule. I accept that."

Sanchez was on the end of some heavy challenges and Wenger said his player had been left with a bleeding lip.

"Huth went really in with him I think," Wenger said. "I helped him to get up and he was bleeding on the lips."

Olivier Giroud also endured some special attention as Leicester's Yohan Benalouane thrust his boot into his opponent's back but only received a yellow card from referee Mike Jones.

Wenger admitted it was worth a "dark orange" but Foxes manager Craig Shakespeare saw no wrong-doing.

"I don't think it was a drop-kick," Shakespeare said. "I think a yellow card was the correct decision."

Defeat leaves Leicester 15th in the table, six points above the relegation zone and with one game in hand over 18th-placed Swansea.

"The goal was a cruel deflection because it wasn't even on target," Shakespeare said. "It happened so quickly he couldn't even get out of the way. We have to recover quickly."

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