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Sunday, 19 February 2012

Embattled Wenger backs Arsenal to fight back

London: Arsene Wenger is looking for Arsenal to “show internal strength and resilience” to bounce back against Tottenham after a 2-0 defeat away to Sunderland dumped the Gunners out of the FA Cup.

Following their 4-0 midweek mauling by AC Milan in the Champions League, the north Londoners had a tough time at the Stadium of Light as Kieran Richardson and an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain own goal condemned them to elimination and the prospect of another trophyless season.

“I feel we had a committed performance and we gave absolutely everything that was left in our legs. It was a very difficult game,” Wenger admitted in the post-match press conference.

“We had three away games in a week on three very difficult pitches. It was a very unfortunate schedule. We fought hard but I felt we were a bit unlucky. It was a 100 percent penalty that Mr [Howard] Webb missed [John O’Shea on Robin van Persie] and Sunderland scored with their first shot on goal.”

“Then we had to chase the game, take every gamble and we were caught on the break for the second goal. We had an awful lot of possession but did not create a lot and that is down to fantastic defending by Sunderland. They left us the ball, ran after it and defended well.”

Asked what the probable lack of silverware would mean for the club going forward, Wenger said: “It is too early to say. We are of course very disappointed tonight and it is very difficult to say where it leaves us and what we will do.”

“Let’s focus on our next game to finish well in the Premier League and fight as well, even if it is a small possibility in the Champions League to give us a little chance, and we have a big game next Saturday [against Spurs].”

“I believe that the moment it is better to let people talk and criticise, analyse and destroy, and on our side it is important we show internal strength and resilience and face all that and come out with a good performance in our next game.”

“The competition is very hard in England and I do not want to speak too much about that now. We could speak a long time about that one day. But at the moment we have to forget all that and focus on our next game and try to win it.”

The Frenchman spoke scathingly of criticism that he has received from the media, when asked if the result meant that the club was in crisis.

“It depends what you call a crisis,” Wenger stated. “Every time we lose a game we have a crisis. Our job is about winning and playing well.”

“At the moment I get many lessons from many people who have managed zero clubs and zero games. I can take everything on board but I don’t think that would have helped us to win the game today.”

“We have played 15 years at the top level in the top four with remarkable consistency and one day when you manage a club you will see it is not easy.”

“I think it is a very harsh judgement,” he added when told of Roy Keane’s comments that the current Gunners side are "the worst Arsenal team I've seen in all my time of watching football."

Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey and Sebastien Squillaci were all withdrawn due to injury during the game and Wenger admitted that injuries were an increasing problem.

“We lost three players again today and we are starting to get very short,” said the Gunners boss. “None of them will be fit for next week.”


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