Wenger out to re­pair dam­age

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

LON­DON — Arsene Wenger wants his side to re­pair the “men­tal dam­age” of a 1-1 draw against Crys­tal Palace when they face West Bromwich Al­bion in the Premier League to­day.

The Gun­ners blew a chance to take a ma­jor step to­wards se­cur­ing Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion for a re­mark­able 19th suc­ces­sive sea­son af­ter be­ing held at home by Lon­don ri­vals Palace at the Emi­rates Sta­dium on Sun­day.

Ar­se­nal led via Alexis Sanchez’s header in first-half stop­page time and dom­i­nated through­out be­fore Yan­nick Bo­lasie’s equaliser in the 81st minute en­sured the home side were greeted with a cho­rus of boos come the fi­nal whis­tle.

Wenger’s men are still fourth in the ta­ble, oc­cu­py­ing the last of the au­to­matic Cham­pi­ons League places on of­fer to English clubs, but Manch­ester United are just four points be­hind in fifth with five games re­main­ing.

Sun­day’s re­sult ended Ar­se­nal’s al­readys­lim hopes of win­ning the ti­tle and vet­eran Gun­ners boss Wenger said: “We are too dis­ap­pointed to think about the league, we have to think about the Cham­pi­ons League and fight to be in the Cham­pi­ons League.

“I’m not in that kind of mood to dream about the cham­pi­onship but I need to re­pair men­tal dam­age and pre­pare for the next game to come against West Brom on Thurs­day,” the French­man added. “You have to do that rather than look be­hind us.

“Ev­ery­one play­ing is win­ning games. It could be a fight in the end to stay and get a place in the top four.”

Against Palace, it was a fa­mil­iarly de­press­ing story for Ar­se­nal, who dom­i­nated but still dropped two points.

Sanchez headed home Danny Wel­beck’s pass on the strike of half-time against a Palace side con­tent to sit back and de­fend deep.

But chances went beg­ging for Ar­se­nal be­fore Bo­lasie hit the hosts on the break nine min­utes from time.

“We usu­ally cre­ate a high num­ber of chances. We lacked a change of pace, sharp­ness and they de­fended well,” Wenger said.

“You have to some­time win 1-0 and this one of those days. We are a team that likes to take the ini­tia­tive. With that you ex­pect goals and you ac­cept the risk where tak­ing the game to an op­po­nent.

“I’m re­spon­si­ble and I’m frus­trated. We will see where we stand at the end of the sea­son so we must stick to­gether.” Mean­while, Wenger has de­nied sug­ges­tions that his side lack lead­er­ship af­ter Sun­day’s draw.

With­out club cap­tain Mikel Arteta and his vice-cap­tain Per Merte­sacker, Laurent Ko­scielny led a side that in­cluded sev­eral rel­a­tively in­ex­pe­ri­enced or youth­ful play­ers, from Hector Bel­lerin and Gabriel in de­fence to Mo­hamed El­neny and Alex Iwobi in the mid­dle of the pitch.

Wenger’s side has been crit­i­cised for its in­abil­ity to deal with ad­ver­sity in re­cent months, in­clud­ing their fail­ure to man­age Andy Carroll over his eight minute hat­trick in their visit to West Ham ear­lier this month, but the Ar­se­nal man­ager did not feel his play­ers were short on lead­er­ship in Sun­day’s draw.

“I don’t be­lieve that to­day was about lead­er­ship,” he said. “It was about scor­ing the sec­ond goal and stop­ping a goal that we gave away as it was avoid­able. That was the re­gret of the day. We knew we couldn’t get frus­trated and make a de­fen­sive mis­take. In the end, I must say they have the play­ers that can take ad­van­tage of ev­ery counter at­tack. They are quick and pow­er­ful. When it was 1-0 they never came out re­ally.”

Whilst the late equaliser was a frus­trat­ing mo­ment for Wenger it did not come as a sur­prise to his op­po­site num­ber Alan Pardew, who re­vealed that he was well aware of Ar­se­nal’s habit of leav­ing space for his play­ers to ex­ploit in the clos­ing stages.

Palace could have won the game at the death had Gabriel not blocked Wil­fried Zaha’s low cross to an un­marked Em­manuel Ade­bayor but Pardew was still de­lighted at the way his side had ral­lied from the dis­ap­point­ment of Ar­se­nal’s goal late in the first half.

He added: “My team de­serve tremen­dous credit be­cause it is tough to play here, we had a game plan that meant we would make sure that they didn’t have a fast start and then build as the game went on and that is how it played out and then at the end we nearly won it with that great run from Wil­fried (Zaha).

We didn’t de­serve that though but we had a good strat­egy to us to­day and the lads did well.

“I was a bit dis­ap­pointed to con­cede that goal just be­fore half time, we hadn’t re­tained the ball well enough but we stayed in there and it was im­por­tant that we didn’t al­low them to get into fourth or fifth gear.

“We kept them in third gear and they came out in the sec­ond half and played much the same and we knew we could get bet­ter and that is ex­actly what hap­pened.” — Reuters

Ar­se­nal for­ward Alexis sanchez.

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