Arsène Wenger praises Arsenal mental strength in battling draw with City

David Hytner at the Emirates Stadium
Arsène Wenger said Arsenal started with a ‘high level of anxiety’ against Manchester City but ‘we came back and I would say it will help us to rebuild confidence’. Photograph: BPI/Rex/Shutterstock

Arsène Wenger watched his Arsenal team squeeze to a nervy 2-2 draw with Manchester City and hoped that it could serve as a springboard to greater stability and a successful push for a top‑four finish.

Arsenal had entered on a run of four defeats in five Premier League games – the worst sequence of Wenger’s long career – and to the now familiar backdrop of angst and uncertainly over his future beyond the end of the season.

They trailed twice only to fight back on both occasions, and they got the benefit of the referee Andre Marriner’s decision in stoppage-time to overlook an apparent handball inside the penalty area by Nacho Monreal. Pep Guardiola was incensed and the City manager confronted Marriner on the field after the full-time whistle.

Arsenal emerged with a point and although it was not the best result in mathematical terms, Wenger suggested it could have galvanising potential. “It was a mental test and you could see that the team was touched on the confidence front,” he said.

“We started with a high level of anxiety and the fluency in our game suffered. But we have showed great mental resources. We were twice down and the second [concession] came at the worst moment in a football game – just before half-time. On top of that, we lost [Laurent] Koscielny to an achilles injury at half-time. We came back in the second half and I would say it will help us to rebuild confidence. Hopefully, the confidence is there again and it will help us to restart.”

Wenger said he did not have a view of the Monreal flashpoint but Guardiola revealed that the Arsenal left‑back had admitted his guilt on the field. Guardiola also pointed out that Marriner had denied his team a penalty in the 2-2 home draw with Tottenham in January, when Kyle Walker pushed Raheem Sterling.

“Monreal said he touched the ball with his hand,” Guardiola said. “But he said to me in England, in that kind of situation, there are no whistles. What I said, I said to the referee. I said to the referee that the same thing happened against Tottenham. It was the same referee. I don’t come here to talk about the referee. But, of course, if Monreal said it …”

Guardiola was unhappy at the overall performance of his team, with their passing below par in the first half after a fast start and, once again, missing clear chances. “After the first goal, we forgot a little bit to play. I like it when my teams play with the ball. Of course, they have to run but I like it when they have the personality to play. In some moments, we didn’t do that.

“It was much better after Yaya Touré came on at half-time. We were then able to make three, four, five passes in a row. I brought Yaya on for Raheem Sterling for tactical reasons. We wanted one more guy who touched the ball. I wanted more passes.”

Wenger reported that he did not know how long Koscielny would be out but Aaron Ramsey (calf) and Alex Oxlade‑Chamberlain (hamstring) could return for the home game against West Ham United on Wednesday.

On the tensions within the club’s support and his own future, he said: “I felt our fans were fantastic today. In the very difficult moments in the first half, I felt they could have turned against us but they were absolutely sensational and helped the team to get through those difficult moments.

“I am here for 20 years and I have shown complete loyalty to this club. I’ll continue to do that as long as I’m here. After that I will always support this club and wish that after me it goes very well and even much better.”

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