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
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.”