… as Wenger draws ‘be­lief’ from United draw

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS - BY TIM RICH

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

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