Arsene Wenger hailed his Arsenal players for overcoming a ‘high level of anxiety’ and passing a ‘mental test’ to claim a point in their 2-2 draw with Manchester City on Sunday.
Against a backdrop of fan protests and uncertainty over Wenger’s future, Arsenal started apprehensively and Leroy Sane capitalised to put the visitors ahead after just five minutes.
The hosts gradually grew into the game and equalised through Theo Walcott in the 40th minute, only for Sergio Aguero to restore City’s lead 131 seconds later.
Pep Guardiola’s could, and perhaps should, have taken hold of the game from there, but Arsenal fought back, equalising for the second time through Shkodran Mustafi’s header eight minutes into the second half.
“I would say that overall, we started with quite a high level of anxiety and they punished us straight away,” Wenger said in his post-match press conference, reflecting on his side’s frantic start.
“Overall, I felt that it was a mental test. You could see that the team was touched on the confidence front and that the fluency in our game suffered but as well, we have shown great mental resources.”
Wenger added: “I would say it will help us to rebuild confidence because overall we have certainly shown some mental strength and that will help us to come back to our natural fluency.”
Wenger claimed to have perceived this nervousness in his players and suggested that he too felt a little more anxious than usual on the touchline.
“I care about my team,” he said. “When you have the experience I have, you have a good measure of the level of anxiety in a team.
“We were under pressure, and it's different, because you are more mentally tested than anything else. I think we responded in a united, strong way.”
Laurent Koscielny departed at half-time through injury and is now a doubt for Wednesday night, when West Ham United visit the Emirates.
“I don't know how long he'll be out. He came off at half-time with an Achilles problem. How long that will last, I don’t know,” Wenger said.