Saturday 16 December 2017

Wenger warns against hasty judgments as Mertesacker feels the heat

Jeremy Wilson

Arsene Wenger has launched a staunch defence of Per Mertesacker, arguing that it takes time to adapt to life in the Premier League and that judgments should not be rushed.

Mertesacker was again unconvincing in Arsenal's 2-1 win against Norwich City on Saturday, with Steve Morison, who was playing non-league football for Stevenage Borough only two years ago, dispossessing him for the first goal.

Wenger, though, pointed to the example of Laurent Koscielny as a player who has grown in stature during his second year in English football.

"It's a different game in England," Wenger said. "It's a very demanding game for a defender because you are always tested. Every second of the game you are tested.

"We have seen that with Koscielny. Last year he would not have delivered that kind of performance because you learn that from fighting in every game and that's why it's so difficult to buy defenders abroad."


Arsenal are almost certain to secure qualification for the last-16 of the Champions League if they avoid defeat against Borussia Dortmund tomorrow night, with Wenger refusing to prioritise any of the four major competitions this season.

That is despite the admission, in a weekend interview with 'L'Equipe', that it was a mistake last season to go all out for every trophy.

"If I acknowledge one mistake, it was wanting to win everything," he said. "We played 27 matches between November and January. After that we started to run out of petrol. To try to catch one, we ran after all of the hares."

Asked about this season, Wenger said: "I'll do the same thing. It's the only response I have to pressure."

Meanwhile, former Arsenal defender Emmanuel Eboue, who now plays for Galatasaray, was repeatedly pelted with objects during a clash with Besiktas.

Besiktas face a two-match ban after video footage of Sunday's game showed the Ivory Coast international being repeatedly hit on the head with objects.

Besiktas fans also shouted abuse at Galatasaray midfielder Engin Baytar, while others dismantled seats and threw them at police.

Galatasaray players and the match officials continued to be pelted with missiles as they left the pitch protected by a line of police shields. The abuse came despite a decision by Turkey's big four clubs, including Galatasaray and Besiktas, not to allow visiting fans to attend games involving them in an effort to prevent violence.

Turkey also introduced stringent anti-hooliganism laws in April, including prison terms. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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