herald

Monday 21 August 2017

Wenger makes call for greater collective effort

Manager Arsene Wenger maintains only a collective defensive effort can propel Arsenal back into the English Premier League title race.

The Gunners head to Sunderland, thrashed 8-0 last week at Southampton, boosted by a dramatic midweek victory away to Anderlecht in the Champions League, coming from behind with two goals in the final two minutes.

The final result in Brussels, however, masked somewhat a largely average display, with few lessons seemingly learned from recent domestic failings which saw Arsenal need a stoppage-time equaliser to draw 2-2 at home to Hull.

Defender Per Mertesacker believes the Gunners must not hide from the fact they 'lack a few things football wise' and need to improve overall confidence.

Wenger, though, insists it is too easy just to lay all of the blame on a backline which has been hampered by injuries, with centre-back Laurent Koscielny set to be out for at least a month with an Achilles injury.

"Until now we have been relatively consistent in our attitude and in our performances, but not efficient enough, neither defensively nor offensively," said Wenger.

"If you look since the start of the season we have only lost two games, to Dortmund and Chelsea, but we didn't make enough points with our performances. It is improving by getting everybody to put a bit more effort in to the defensive work, and that starts not only at the back, but up front and in midfield by increasing the level of defensive activity through the team.

"We had to reshuffle the defence and (the players) getting used to playing together helps as well. Last year we had 17 clean sheets and at the moment, we have only had one after eight (Premier League) games, so that is something which we are not on the same level defensively.

"It (the win at Anderlecht) will help to improve confidence and I am sure that if we focus on our performance, the rest will come naturally."

comeback

England forward Theo Walcott is close to a comeback from the serious knee injury which ruled him out of the World Cup. Wenger, though, feels Walcott - who could play for the Under-21s again this weekend - needs a few more "kicks" before returning to the first team.

Wenger added: "Theo has to get used to contact again. He has been out for nine months, it was a big injury and it takes time to settle, to get used to being kicked again."

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