Sport Soccer

Friday 23 February 2018

Wenger overspins positives of City stuffing

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Ben Rumsby

Taking the positives from a defeat is a hallmark of any good manager, but Arsene Wenger stretched the practice to breaking point by claiming that Arsenal's 6-3 drubbing at Manchester City should strengthen their belief that they can win the Premier League.

Wenger's astonishing assessment of the Gunners' heaviest league loss since their notorious 8-2 humiliation at Manchester United came as they prepared for the defining moment of their season so far.

Monday night's showdown with Chelsea will not only determine whether Wenger's men top the Premier League on Christmas Day but will also provide the biggest clue yet whether they really are capable of ending their near nine-year trophy drought or are, merely, the same old Arsenal.

Three games without a win in all competitions, their worst run of the campaign, have seen their critics resurface, with predictions that the Gunners will crack in danger of being proven right.

No wonder Wenger was keen to play down the impact of last Saturday's City stuffing.

"Despite the fact we conceded goals -- that was a shock for us because we are not used to that -- it was not all negative because we could have scored six as well," he said.

"On the offensive front, we have shown that we have huge potential. I believe that we should come out of that game even stronger in our belief, even stronger in our resolute attitude, because we have shown until now that we can be very strong defensively, and as well, on the day, we have shown that we can be dangerous against anybody.

"We can rectify the defensive problem -- that's what we want to show against Chelsea."

Denying morale had been dented, the Frenchman added: "We have self-belief but -- I can talk here -- let's show it on Monday night.

"When you want to play a big part in the race for the championship, you want to win the big games at home.

"That is what is at stake. We want to respond in a very strong manner to our last defeat."

Arsenal will be without Jack Wilshere after the midfielder was banned for two matches for his one-fingered salute at City.

The club's appeal against the length of the suspension was rejected, meaning the England star will also miss the St Stephen's Day trip to West Ham.

"We have to accept it and to swallow it," said Wenger, who called for swearing to be sanctioned in the same way as such gestures.

Arsenal also lost defender Laurent Koscielny to a gashed knee in the City defeat and they will be without him again on Monday, although Lukas Podolski should return from the hamstring tear that has sidelined him for almost three months. (Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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