Saturday 3 December 2016

Arsene Wenger admits Arsenal are 'not ready' to compete in the Premier League

Jack de Menezes

Published 14/08/2016 | 20:02

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger looks dejected
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger looks dejected

Arsene Wenger admitted that his Arsenal team are “not ready” to compete in the Premier League after seeing Aaron Ramsey and Alex Iwobi limp out of their 4-3 home defeat by Liverpool, leading to yet another uncomfortable atmosphere inside the Emirates Stadium.

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Arsenal suffered a third defeat in four opening weekends after seeing Liverpool come from behind to threaten a rout, with Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane inspiring the Merseysiders to a 4-1 lead after Theo Walcott opened the scoring.

That Arsenal were able to save some grace with two second-half goals saved Wenger from facing an even bigger backlash at the full-time whistle, but his comments after the match will not help ease frustrations among fans who are growing tired with his reluctance to spend in the transfer window.

“Physically we are not ready,” Wenger said. “You’re in a catch 22 situation with the Euros because you give the players a rest. We are not ready to play this kind of game and they get injured like Ramsey today, or you give them a rest and you start the season without many of your players.”

Wenger went into the match without three first team regulars in Laurent Koscielny, Olivier Giroud and Mesut Özil after choosing to give them an extended holiday following the European Championship. Ramsey, despite reaching the semi-finals with Wales, was afforded no such luxury, and the decision backfired when he limped off with a hamstring injury on the hour mark, minutes after Adam Lallana had put Arsenal 2-1 down.

Iwobi left soon after with a thigh injury, and with a trip to reigning champions Leicester City up next for his side, Wenger admitted that he doesn’t know when his side will be physically ready to compete.

“We will try but when they have not [got] the volume of the level required they get injured,” he said. “You could see that we dropped physically today. It was a game of contrast between two halves but I felt as well that mentally we kept going and we have been absolutely remarkable on that front. We had 15 minutes where I believe the first goal was a big shock for us, we didn’t see that coming in the first half, and maybe we didn’t recover too much from that.

“I don’t know, we have to be ready next week because we got to Leicester, and I see first what we can do with the players who are preparing at the moment and how many players are injured today for next week.”

Asked why his side were not ready when others clearly were, Wenger answered: “Because we had many players at the Euros and they played very late in the Euros. Ramsey, Koscielny, Özil, they went to the semi-final, Giroud. We had four players who went very late.

“We are not stupid, and we prepare with the players we have, but I think as well we need to consider we’ve been a bit unlucky as well. We have lost [Per] Mertesacker and Gabriel in the preparations and Koscielny is not fit. You have to accept sometimes that you cannot control absolutely everything even if you try to be as intelligent as possible.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp blamed himself for nearly costing Liverpool victory after he sprinted to join his players in celebration following Mane’s fourth for the Reds. Within a minute, the score was back to 4-2, but despite Calum Chambers reducing the deficit further, Liverpool were able to regroup to hold on for the three points.

“Scoring four goals is wonderful, conceding three is the opposite of emotions,” Klopp said. “It was too easy to play between our rows and in the spaces we gave them, the formation we had chosen was to close those spaces and what we did was open spaces.”

He added: “We came out, scored wonderful goals and then I made the big mistake because I got involved in the celebrations and that I do hopefully one of two times in my life but not so early in the game because it was a long time for all of us, and I felt for everybody in this moment ‘that’s it’, and in the end you look at the watch and think ‘oh, there’s still half an hour or something to go, that’s not too good’.

Addressing Alberto Moreno’s foul on Theo Walcott that resulted in Simon Mignolet saving a penalty from the Arsenal forward, Klopp made it clear where he landed on the tackle.

“I think it’s not important of course but it’s not a penalty,” Klopp said. “He [Moreno] played the ball is how I saw it but it’s not important because Simon could make the save.”

Klopp stressed that he did not pay attention to Arsenal’s inexperienced centre-back pairing of Calum Chambers and new signing Rob Holding, aged 21 and 20 respectively, and Wenger leapt to their defence after the match despite seeing four goals put past his side.

“I think if you look at the goals, it’s not necessarily our defenders who cost us the goals today,” Wenger said. “Not all the players have the same level of preparation and maybe as well we lacked a little bit of experience today. Overall, if you look it wasn’t necessarily the inexperienced players that cost us the goals today.”

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