Arsene Wenger dismisses Gary Neville’s criticism of Arsenal players walking against Manchester City
Arsene Wenger has argued that Arsenal’s EFL Cup final against Manchester City was tighter than the final score suggested, pointing to how it was three shots on target to two despite the 3-0 scoreline, and dismissed criticism of his players walking as he claimed you could pick out similar footage of the opposition.
Arsenal had started the game well only to be undone by an 18th-minute Sergio Aguero goal, and thereafter never looked like coming into the match. The second-half collapse and exodus by fans prompted fierce criticism of the side - especially from Gary Neville on the players walking back - but Wenger claimed the final score coloured perception.
He also said he was satisfied with the players’ effort, pointing to the very fact they got to the final in the first place.
“I felt it was a very tight game until the 2-0,” Wenger said. “When you look at the end of the game, Man City had three shots on target and we had two. So overall, I believe that we have to turn the decisive moments in our favour and play with more freedom than we did. I think we played a bit apprehensively and that is important that we go into the game with that force that is part of our game and our philosophy.”
Asked about Neville pointing to footage of players walking back as City scored, Wenger said: “Yes, but you could find that on both sides. You can always get out pictures from a game that justifies what you think, you find in every single game, on both sides, moments where a player doesn't track. After you have to analyse why, has he made two runs before to go in behind and was exhausted, or did he not track because he didn't want to? That is different.
“I believe we have to live with that criticism and respond together like we always do. We got to the final and you don't get there by coincidence, you have to fight to get there and we did. We didn't play against a poor team in the semi-final, we played against Chelsea and we have shown that we can fight. You have to acknowledge as well that Man City are a quality team.
“Look, we have to live with that [criticism]. It’s part of the modern game. People who comment, their job is to comment, so you have to live with that. What is important is how we respond, how we analyse the game and how we respond in a united way. All the rest is part of the game that you have to live with. It doesn’t help us to win or lose the next game. What helps us to win the next game is how we respond internally together.”
Asked whether his players gave him everything, Wenger said: “Yes, of course. I am long enough in the game to know that when you lose a big game, people always say that the players don't want it enough - that is a common response that you get, you always get that. You have to analyse whether that is the serious problem in the game, did we lose the game because of that - I am not convinced. When there is a big difference like 3-0 you always get that impression. For me, it is not the main reason.”