Shock of An­field de­feat gave us a re­newed fo­cus, in­sists Wenger

Arse­nal un­beaten since los­ing 4-0 to Liver­pool Ozil’s ab­sence means Iwobi may start against Brighton

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Sam Wallace - By Jonathan Liew

Arsene Wenger be­lieves that Arse­nal’s 4-0 de­feat against Liver­pool in Au­gust was the im­pe­tus for their re­cent run of good form. Since the crush­ing ca­pit­u­la­tion at An­field, Arse­nal have won five games out of six, the other be­ing a goal­less draw at Chelsea. And ahead of this af­ter­noon’s game against Brighton, Wenger said that the shock of the Liver­pool loss, cou­pled with the clos­ing of the trans­fer window, had given his team a re­newed fo­cus.

“We re­alised what we pro­duced was not good enough,” Wenger said. “But that was a spe­cial day for us as well. It was just be­fore the trans­fer window closed, and just be­fore an in­ter­na­tional break. Overall, we stayed united and re­sponded on the pitch. That is all you can do.”

Wenger said that the un­cer­tainty of trans­fer dead­line day, with the fu­ture of Alexis Sanchez still up in the air and a bid for Monaco’s Thomas Le­mar fall­ing at the final hur­dle, took a toll on the team. “It was a very busy pe­riod,” he said. “It was a very dif­fi­cult one as well, be­cause you have two weeks to think about ev­ery­thing that hap­pened. We worked very hard un­til the 31st at night, and there were not easy de­ci­sions to make.

“For me, the weight of the trans­fer mar­ket was much heav­ier than in­ter­na­tion­als. It feels like a dif­fer­ent team. You see the way we play football. You need to have a united group to do that.”

Arse­nal’s sparkling Septem­ber has partly mended the dam­age caused by a poor start to the season. They have also notched two wins in the Europa League to put them in pole po­si­tion to qual­ify for the knock­out stage. But they trail the Manch­ester clubs in the ti­tle race, and ahead of an­other in­ter­na­tional break Wenger said the Brighton game was a cru­cial op­por­tu­nity to main­tain mo­men­tum.

“The op­por­tu­nity we have is to go into this in­ter­na­tional break dif­fer­ently,” he said. “We play at home, and we want to do well be­fore this break.”

Arse­nal will be with­out Me­sut Ozil, who has still not shaken off a knee in­jury. That could offer an op­por­tu­nity to Alex Iwobi in mid­field if he can shrug off a thigh in­jury, or even Jack Wil­shere, who com­pleted 90 min­utes against BATE Borisov on Thurs­day night and put in a fine per­for­mance.

Lau­rent Ko­scielny is also a doubt with an Achilles prob­lem, while Fran­cis Co­quelin, Santi Ca­zorla and Danny Wel­beck are all on­go­ing in­jury con­cerns. A weak­ened squad re­turned from Be­larus early on Fri­day morn­ing, of­fer­ing pre­cious lit­tle re­cov­ery time be­fore to­day’s lunchtime kick-off. But important play­ers such as Sanchez, Petr Cech, Alexan­dre La­cazette and Hec­tor Bel­lerin will be ready to re­turn after miss­ing the Europa League game.

And Wenger brushed aside con­cerns over his own fa­tigue. “Men­tally, I am very fresh,” he said. “I love football and the way we want to play football, so I am al­ways mo­ti­vated by that.”

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