Saturday 16 December 2017

Arsene Wenger: Arsenal must bounce back after West Ham defeat

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, right, was less than impressed by his team
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, right, was less than impressed by his team

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger challenged his side to quickly recover from a 2-0 defeat in their opening Barclays Premier League match at home to West Ham and not allow it to derail ambitions for the season ahead.

Goalkeeper Petr Cech, signed from champions Chelsea in a £10million summer deal, had an Arsenal league debut to forget as he was caught out when West Ham midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate headed in a first-half free-kick and then wrongfooted as Mauro Zarate slotted home a second on the break after 57 minutes.

Following an impressive pre-season and victory over Chelsea for the FA Cup holders in the Community Shield at Wembley, hopes had grown Wenger's men could again mount a long-overdue sustained challenge for the title.

READ MORE: Wenger refuses to point finger at Cech after nightmare start

While of course all is not lost after only one match, Wenger knows should his team not produce the required performances at Crystal Palace next Sunday and then when Liverpool come to the Emirates Stadium on August 24, then there will be more questions about the future direction of the current group.

"A successful season is how you respond to disappointments and it is never a clear motorway. We have to respond quickly," said Wenger.

"We have a tricky start. Crystal Palace are a very good team, Liverpool are a very good team, and you could see again that we are not completely there physically."

Cech posted a message on Twitter following the match to express his disappointment at the result which was "not in the script" and apologised for his mistake.

Wenger, though, refused to lay the blame on any one player.

"I can't see many individual convincing performances, so it is difficult to single someone out," he said.

"We were a bit nervous and we rushed our game a bit. We didn't always respect the basics.

"West Ham are a bit more advanced in their preparation than us. They have played many competitive games in the Europa League. I knew before the game it would be tricky game on that front."

Striker Olivier Giroud failed to keep up his impressive scoring record against West Ham, and was treated for a head injury during the second half following a collision with Irons defender James Tomkins, but was not knocked unconscious at any point, returning home as usual after the match.

Arsenal continue to be linked with a big-money move for Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema.

Wenger said: "If an exceptional solution turns up, we will do it, but after a defeat like that, it is important not always to think we take a solution from outside."

It was a first win for West Ham over Arsenal since April 2007 in what was Slaven Bilic's debut Premier League match in charge.

The Croatian, who handed a start to 16-year-old Reece Oxford, said: "This is an absolutely amazing result. Arsenal is one of the biggest teams, one of the contenders for the title, it is the first day of the new season and we did it in their stadium."

Bilic intends to keep a close eye on Oxford's development. He added: "Reece is still 16 and not 19, but we will try to manage him now and we will keep him away from all the fuss that is going to be created. That is part of our job, but the boy has a future and we have to manage him the right way in every aspect."

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