… as Wenger draws ‘belief’ from United draw
WHEN Arsenal next journey home from Manchester, they will have a far clearer idea of where they stand. United was their first big test away from the Emirates Stadium and in less than a month’s time they travel to Manchester City. If Arsene Wenger is talking the language of fight and resilience after that game, perhaps it might be their season after all.
This was a fortuitous draw against a Manchester United side that is a long way from its peak but such is Wenger’s record against Jose Mourinho (no wins in 14 attempts) and at Old Trafford (one league win since 2002) that it felt like something more.
“I hope it strengthens the belief inside the squad that no matter what happens we can always come back,” said Wenger. “The resilience was the main thing and we kept our composure as well – even at the end. I believe there is great harmony in the squad.”
When it was pointed out to him that it was his substitutes – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud - who had grabbed the equaliser, the Arsenal manager denied it was a tactical masterstroke.
But he added: “The players who do come on make a difference every time and that is not a coincidence. That is down to attitude and overall I took some gambles as well. But the gambles only work if the players have the right attitude.”
Giroud might wonder when he will be starting games. Given that Wenger admitted that Alexis Sanchez had been playing for Chile “on Wednesday morning”, he might have expected to start this one.
Sanchez had scored twice in Santiago as Chile came from behind to beat Uruguay and had returned to London injured. Under normal circumstances, Wenger would not have considered him against Manchester United. Instead, Sanchez played with heavy strapping on his leg.
“It is very unusual,” said Wenger. “But I did it because Sanchez is a guy who can take people on, he is good in counterattacks in short spells and he is a player who is not scared of anybody.”
By the end of January, Arsenal would have played at Everton, Manchester City and Chelsea, away games with a rather greater degree of difficulty than their opening matches outside the Emirates Stadium.
Aside from a goalless draw at Leicester, trips to Watford, Hull, Burnley and Sunderland were not formidable obstacles, which is why a snatched point at Old Trafford felt like so much more than a draw.
However, Wenger knows that there will come a time when draws are no longer enough.
“We can accept a point here but we are getting too many draws at the moment,” he said. “You cannot afford that too many times.” – The Independent