Full match report & player ratings to follow..
The Gunners produced a sensational 7-1 victory over Blackburn yesterday that is the start of a rejuvenation in their quest for Champions League qualification.
Wenger hailed the quality and impact that new starlet Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has had on the Gunners after his impressive brace and on the memorable performance:
I felt that recently we had quite good performances but did not get the results. Today we got the performance and the result, which is ideally what you want. I do not give much importance to the seven goals, it is just important we won and played well.
[on Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott] As you know, they are English! I feel providing today was as important as scoring. The flanks provided very well and scored through Alex. Robin is an exceptional football player and you could see that with his movement in the box, which could be shown in every football school. When you feed him in the box, he is deadly.
[on why he didn’t take Van Persie off] Alex Chamberlain played three games for the first time in his career. He had a stiff neck at half-time, so I did not want to take a gamble with him. Then we had a problem with Koscielny, and I wanted to give some playing time to Benayoun.
[on maintaining the pressure against 10 men] We remained serious and were guided by the way we want to play football and not by any extravagant individualism. That is positive. We were mature and serious, we played together until the end.
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[on Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pre-match knock] I would not have taken a gamble today. In a very short period of time he has become an important player who can make a difference. I rested him in the last 20 minutes at Bolton, so he was not pushed to his limits. The medical staff said there was no risk he could damage his knee, so that is why I decided to play him.
[on why he didn’t use him sooner] He was not ready earlier in the season. He has made a big step in the last months. He produces team play, he is not only going forwards, he is contributing to the defending and has improved very quickly. He is a fighter as well, with personality. He is much more mature now.
[on whether he could get an England call-up] Would you be surprised? I would not.
[on scoring so many goals] It was important to the confidence of the side that we win a game and get three points but the result in itself will not make us win at Sunderland. What will make us win there with the confidence we got today is to continue to play the way we did today. Every game is a new challenge and Sunderland are in a good spell as well. We have to be ready for that.
[on whether he reads much into a 7-1 win] No, as we said before we need consistency. Strangely I don’t feel we played very badly at Fulham, nor at Swansea, nor against Manchester United – in the first half we were terrible but in the second half we should have won the game. But every time we just couldn’t get the result and in the end if affects your belief. This will help us slowly to believe again that we could win. To win 1-0 at Sunderland would be fantastic and that’s what we have to prepare for, to produce a good performance.
[on sharing the goals around] Yes, that was a problem I faced in all the press conferences at the start of the season. If he doesn’t score, who scores, you know? It was right, I couldn’t deny that. But I always felt that if you look at our numbers the trio of Gervinho, Walcott and Van Persie were involved in all the goals so they are more the providers because we play with two wingers. But the wingers can score as well, like today. It is something that is needed and we need some more goals from midfield as well.
[on Henry’s impact off the pitch] Only positive. How much, you can never give a percentage, but he was very positive and everyone takes his advice on board because he has delivered here and they want to deliver too. He is respected and he was very positive. He is not going away yet, normally he stays until after the Milan game. So we go to Sunderland now and then we go to Milan – that is two massive games.
[on whether he can extend Henry’s loan deal] I haven’t looked at it, maybe the maximum possibility we have is two more weeks. Normally no [he would not be here for the Tottenham game].
The result has come at the right time as the Gunners needed a match that they won with real conviction which hasn’t happened in some time. As for Henry, Wenger should try to extend his loan deal for as long as possible because he is a far better attacking option than Park and Chamakh.
It is fantastic to see Oxlade-Chamberlain proving his worth already after an expensive transfer, and I feel that he will be an integral member of the side from now on after some memorizing displays recently.
Who do you think should be the preferred first choice wingers when Gervinho returns from the African Nations Cup. My first pick at the moment would have to be Oxlade-Chamberlain but it is a tough decision between Walcott and Gervinho. Both can be incredibly inconsistent and frustrating, but on their good days both can be game changers.