Monday 11 December 2017

Critics hushed by Gunfire

Wenger delighted with his side's response as blazing Gunners run riot at Royals

ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger believes his players answered their critics on the pitch as they steamrollered Premier League strugglers Reading.

The Gunners ran out 5-2 winners at the Madejski Stadium last night with hat-trick hero Santi Cazorla the star of the show in a rampant Arsenal performance.

Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott also struck for Wenger's side, who moved to within two points of the top four with the win.

Wenger felt talk of a crisis at the North London club, escalated by the League Cup defeat at Bradford and reported rifts with assistant manager Steve Bould, was put to bed at the expense of bottom side Reading.

"There could only be one answer and that was on the football pitch," he said.

"Success came with the quality of our game. We focused on the quality of our game and played.

"Our ambition is to finish as high as we can and win our next game, that is all we can do.

"We have to focus on the quality of our football."

When pressed on the recent harsh criticism of Arsenal, Wenger added: "It depends on what you mean by a crisis. If you call being slaughtered by everybody then we were in a super-crisis.

"In our job you need to be mentally strong. It is a test when you have been in a position like we were in."

Walcott, who is still yet to sign a new deal with Arsenal, was deployed in his favoured central role and Wenger is hopeful an agreement can be reached with the player sooner rather than later.

The Frenchman said: "It is not my decision, it is Theo's decision as well - if it is (only) my decision, it is quickly done.

"Theo has been educated at Southampton and Arsenal, where he has become a top-level player.

"I hope that when he considers his future he will think this is the best place for him and sign for us.

"I will just say our desire and will is clear, and Theo knows that. Hopefully we can get to a happy end with it."

Reading boss Brian McDermott still reckons he is the man to guide the Royals to safety this season despite a sixth straight league defeat.

Goals from Adam Le Fondre and Jimmy Kebe saw Reading briefly threaten a revival at 4-2 but another loss has not made the 51-year-old question his ability.

"My position is what it is. I'm not enjoying the results but I'm enjoying the challenge," he said.

"I felt I was the right man to get us out of trouble when we were in the Championship, I felt I was the right man to get us to quarter-finals of FA Cups.

"I thought I was the right man to get us into the play-off final, I felt I was the right man to get us promoted to the Premier League and I feel I'm the right man to get us out of trouble where we are."

Forward Walcott believed there were glimpses of "the true Arsenal" last night.

Walcott duly repaid his boss' faith in using him as the central striker by slotting in the fifth goal of the night.

When asked about recent criticism following last week's shock exit from the League Cup, he said: "We showed people the true Arsenal.

"We don't really take notice of the outside. We're a big family and we know our quality and that we're good enough.

"I enjoyed playing up front and the boss gave me that opportunity.

"I thought I did very well and the players around me make my job easier."

Gunners midfielder Jack Wilshere was quick to echo his team-mate's sentiments.

He said: "I think we saw the old Arsenal in some patches tonight.

"We need to tighten up defensively as we gave two sloppy goals away."

Referring to the Bradford game, he added: "As players we're disappointed, naturally.

"It's a natural feeling of disappointment when you lose to a lower league team.

"It's been a tough and disappointing week and we had to come here and be strong.

"They're fighting relegation so we knew they would be up for it.

"Theo and Santi were different class and the boys around them helped as well."

Wilshere is especially eager for Walcott's contract stand-off to be sorted out.

"I've been working all year on him," he added.

"But that's between Theo, his representatives and the boss but hopefully we can sign him up.

"He showed he can do it up front and hopefully he can play there in the future."

Walcott added: "Talks are ongoing and it's going to be a slow process.

"It's taking a long time but hopefully something will happen soon."

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