WEST BROM SUCKER PUNCH

It’s up­hill for Arse­nal to fin­ish top four, con­cedes Wenger af­ter shock de­feat

New Straits Times - - Sport -

WEST BROMWICH

ARSE­NAL man­ager Arsene Wenger ad­mit­ted his side face an up­hill bat­tle to fin­ish in the Premier League top four af­ter yes­ter­day’s dispir­it­ing 3-1 de­feat at West Bromwich Al­bion.

Craig Daw­son scored twice as West Brom con­demned Arse­nal to a fourth de­feat in five league games, which left them five points off the Cham­pi­ons League places.

Arse­nal also lost goal­keeper Petr Cech to a mus­cu­lar prob­lem and Wenger re­vealed tal­is­man Alexis Sanchez had sus­tained a po­ten­tially se­ri­ous an­kle in­jury.

“It’s very wor­ry­ing be­cause we are not used to that. We have a hell of a task now to fight back,” Wenger told Sky Sports at The Hawthorns.

“We need to im­prove and fo­cus on the games com­ing up. There are many big games. We have to go away and re­cover and pre­pare well for the end of the sea­son.”

Cech hob­bled off shortly be­fore half-time, with David Ospina tak­ing his place, while Sanchez, who can­celled out Daw­son’s opener, gave way for Alex Iwobi late on.

“We lost Petr Cech in the first half on a calf prob­lem and af­ter we lost Sanchez,” Wenger said.

“He stayed on, but in the sec­ond half he was not him­self so I de­cided to take him off. His an­kle doesn’t look good. When it doesn’t go well, it’s al­ways the same.”

Ri­val groups of Arse­nal fans paid for planes trail­ing ban­ners that were both crit­i­cal and sup­port­ive of Wenger to fly over the sta­dium dur­ing the game.

A ban­ner that read “NO CON­TRACT #WENGER OUT” was seen fly­ing above the sta­dium shortly be­fore kick-off.

But in the 16th minute, with the score 1-1, an­other plane was spot­ted over­head with a ban­ner that read: “IN ARSENE WE TRUST #RESPECTAW.”

Wenger, Arse­nal’s man­ager since 1996, has come un­der pres­sure from fans af­ter Arse­nal were hu­mil­i­ated 10-2 on ag­gre­gate by Bay­ern Mu­nich in the Cham­pi­ons League and dropped out of the Premier League top four.

The 67-year-old French­man is be­lieved to have been of­fered a new two-year con­tract by the club.

Arse­nal’s sup­port is split over Wenger, who won seven tro­phies in his first nine sea­sons as man­ager but has won only two FA Cups in the 12 years since.

Former Arse­nal striker Thierry Henry de­liv­ered a damn­ing ver­dict on the team’s per­for­mance.

“They were nowhere near the de­sire and the com­mit­ment needed to win a game in the Premier League,” he said.

Arse­nal mid­fielder Alex Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain apol­o­gised to the club’s fans af­ter the game, de­scrib­ing their per­for­mance as “not ac­cept­able.” AFP

West Brom’s Craig Daw­son rises high to score against Arse­nal in their Premier League match at The Hawthorns yes­ter­day.

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