After a much needed win against Dortmund, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger faced the media. This time he was much more relaxed and more open than usual, providing answers to a variety of questions. Yesterday’s win for the Gunners saw us get off to a perfect start and then pace ourselves throughout the game, and it was a very refreshing change to see Arsenal perform up to their capabilities.
Wenger complimented the team as a whole, and also reserved some praise for Yaya Sanogo, who was handed a rare start and scored early on to open his account for Arsenal. The manager also addressed questions on the team’s tactics and about his expectations for the Round of 16. This is what he had to say:
We had a good start and overall it was a very intense game between two very good teams where you had to fight for every ball and be focused. I felt we had a good combination between our usual passing game and our transition from defence to attack. We were highly focused to defend well together from the first to the last minute and we always looked dangerous. Defensively we were very good as well.
We were more under pressure because on Saturday we played well but maybe we were victims of our generous attitude going forward. Here we had a bit more urgency to defend, especially when we were 1-0 up.
We talked about it [pacing the game]. The difference in the big games is being 1-0 up or 1-0 down. When you’re 1-0 down you have to chase the game and sometimes you want it so much – especially when you control the game like we did on Saturday. We had 60 penalty area entries on Saturday and Manchester United had 17 so we were always forward. The risk you have when you have to chase a goal is that you get caught on the break. Here we were in a different tactical situation.
If you look at the last five or six years we got the teams we didn’t want [in the knockout stages]. From now until February we need to improve as a team, get encouragement from tonight’s game and then hope we have nearly all our players back in the next round. You see who is qualified around Europe and there are many teams who are at the top, top level. There are three or four teams you don’t want to play.
It [our tactics] will depend a bit on what happens in the next few games. I will try to win the last game and you never know. If Anderlecht win in Dortmund and we don’t win in Galatasaray you will say we were stupid. It’s unlikely, let’s say it’s 90 per cent that we will finish second and Dortmund will finish first.
I think he [Sanogo] played well. I decided tonight to got a bit longer from the start and he protected the ball well and won many challenges. He’s a young boy but he he has presence, character and he’s naturally committed. He has a natural, aggressive attitude up front that is vital and very important.
The manager also spoke about the achievement of qualifying yet again for the knockout stages, which he has done almost every season with Arsenal. He said that it was down to the hard work of the players and he was very proud. He also launched a veiled attack at his critics and said that he does not worry overmuch about what other people think.
When you work in a football club you will realise that it’s not easy to have a continuity and to be consistent. I am very proud of that and I think the club also deserves a lot of credit for that. It’s not enough because we want more than that but we are consistent.
I don’t know [whether people take qualification for granted]. I don’t try anymore to think what people think. What is important is that we are united. As I told you yesterday, this team has a top-quality attitude and we have shown after the disappointment on Saturday that we were united in the game, determined, committed and after that people take what they like or don’t like – we have to accept that. What’s important is what we do inside the club.
Overall, a great result and it will surely be a boost to everyone that we achieved qualification with a game in hand. We will not have to worry about the Champions League until the New Year now, giving us time to focus on getting our Premier League campaign back on track.
The only issue is our injury problems, there seems to be no end to them. Yesterday we lost Arteta and Sanogo; and Arteta seems to be a long term injury. Wilshere has already been ruled out for a while with yet another injury, so this is not good news on that front. But hopefully, with a series of good results and a couple of purchases in January, we can crack the top four this season as well.