Wednesday 16 January 2019

Arsene Wenger refuses to blame Laurent Koscielny after late error hands Atletico Madrid Europa League advantage

Arsene Wenger's hopes of leaving Arsenal with a trophy win this summer take a big blow
Arsene Wenger's hopes of leaving Arsenal with a trophy win this summer take a big blow
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger described his side's 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final as 'the worst possible result' after a late equaliser from Antoine Griezmann.

Alexandre Lacazette fired Arsenal into a lead against at Atletico side that played with ten men for most of the game following the sending off of full-back Sime Vrsaljko in the ninth minute, but Wenger's side could not make use of the extra man as they allowed the lead to slip after a mistake from Gunners centre-back Laurent Koscielny.

The late goal was a hammer blow to Wenger's hopes of ending his reign as Arsenal manager with a trophy, but he refused to criticise Koscielny after his moment of defensive madness.

"It’s not about blaming individuals. The whole team is disappointed and down. We need to build the desire and confidence to go there qualify," stated Wenger.

"I think looking at the performance and the way the game went it was the worst possible result for us. I feel we produced the performance we wanted to produce but the result is not in line with the performance.

"Once we were 1-0 up, the task was clear to us not be caught on the long ball. The only chance they could have was the long ball. We were a bit unlucky with the goal because it was a foul on Welbeck, but we can only look at ourselves tonight.

"Once we score the 1-0, even if we did not score again it was important not to concede."

Asked how confident he was that Arsenal would still progress to the final in Lyon, he added: "How doesn't matter. What matters is we go there with absolute belief to do it."

Danny Welbeck admitted Arsenal were frustrated at conceding a late away goal, as he summed up the mood of the Arsenal dressing toom.

"It's disappointing to take the lead and then to concede a goal right near the end. We are disappointed with that," said the Gunners striker. "We've got to try and make sure that doesn't happen again.

"There were opportunities there for us to score, (we're) disappointed with that. It gives us a little bit of positivity going into the second leg, knowing we can create chances against a great side.

"We know we can score against them, we did it tonight. We're positive going into that game.

"We wanted to win before the manager announced he was leaving and we want to win after it as well. Seeing him at the end lift the trophy, that would be the icing on the cake. But we don’t need that extra incentive because we're professionals and that’s what we’re here to do."

Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone - who has been linked with succeeding Wenger as Arsenal boss - gave his side plaudits for a battling draw at Emirates Stadium.

"During 90 minutes, important sensations went through my body," said Simeone, who was sent off for remonstrating with the referee in the first half.

"These players of Atletico Madrid are heroes to resist like that during the whole season. To have 16 or 17 outfield players, to resist 80-plus minutes is tremendous. Next week the stadium has to explode with positive energy, we can play well or badly but you don’t say this everywhere. Away to Arsenal against a great team, spectacular coach I have goosebumps thinking about next week.

"This team works incredibly hard over many years on their structure. To come to a fantastic stadium like this it is the best thing that football has. To defend, defend defend you don’t have any idea how hard it is to defend. The team has to have huge balls to defend for more than 80 minutes."

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