Speaking at the post match press conference, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger praised the performance of the team, claiming that the players showed their ‘mental strength and desire’ by overcoming a well-organised Sunderland defence (via Arsenal.com). The Gunners opened the scoring yesterday night at the Emirates, but then allowed Sunderland to draw level and had to fight for the victory in a tense game.
Wenger, while admitting that the team could have done better, pointed to Sunderland’s strong performance as proof that Arsenal could still challenge for the top spots. The Black Cats were highly disciplined throughout the game, and forced the Gunners to produce some smart plays to break through their defensive lines. The manager was especially pleased with the performance in the backdrop of the team’s disappointing November campaign.
“It was a very important game for us tonight because we came out of three disappointing results,” he said.
“We had lost only one game but I think it was a very, very important game for us today, psychologically, for the fact we had not won, for the fact we had lost important players in our side and we had to show that we can win.
“We were edgy and nervy in the first half against a very organised team who were dangerous on the counter-attack but in the second half I think we have shown mental strength and desire in our game and more fluency as well. All was not perfect of course but the team have shown mental strength after a goal before half-time. We still managed to win the game in the second half.
“I thought it was important to keep our nerves at first. They were dangerous with [Steven] Fletcher and [Duncan] Watmore, and their full backs could have exposed us, so it was important not to concede the second goal and I believe it was also important to get behind their midfield, behind Ola Toivonen and [Yann] M’Vila and to find space in between their centre backs. Because we hadn’t won for three games people would have said we were in a crisis, so it was important to get the win.”
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The victory will certainly provide a large boost to a side still dealing with the injury fallout from November. As it is now confirmed that Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin and Alexis Sanchez will not return anytime soon, it becomes crucial for the manager to find replacements for them in the meantime. Aaron Ramsey and Joel Campbell made strong claims for themselves with their performances yesterday, with Campbell looking sharp on the left, while Ramsey was a central figure for us throughout the game.
The three points from the win propel us back to second place in the league, thanks to a string of poor results for our opponents. After taking only two points off our previous three games (Tottenham, Norwich and West Brom), the win will also build some much needed momentum heading into the packed December schedule. The next game on our fixture list is the big away fixture against Olympiacos, which will decide our European fate for us. The Gunners travel to Greece on Wednesday needing to score a minimum of two goals in order to progress, and the manager affirmed that the team are going to give it their best shot (via Arsenal.com).
“It’s been a good day for us, because we have won the game and that makes helps us prepare for Olympiacos. Secondly it puts us in an interesting position again and that’s all positive,” Wenger said.
“The squad that was out there for Sunderland – the good news is that we won and that we don’t have any injuries. It makes it obvious for the media to guess who will go to Olympiacos.”
At this point, we cannot afford to rest too many players, so it is likely that the current squad will be overworked in the coming weeks. Let’s hope that they can put up with the increased expectations, at least until January. Once the transfer window opens, it is then up to the manager to make a couple of smart buys and ensure that we do not lose any momentum as we start our FA Cup campaign as well, especially if we are able to keep our hopes alive in the Champions League.