Monday 18 December 2017

Wenger: 'attack is still our priority'

Arsenal boss defends style after ending 13-game Jose jinx streak

Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger praised his team's uncharacteristically rugged display after they beat champions Chelsea 1-0 in the Community Shield yesterday.

Wenger denied, however, that he was giving up on his usual attacked-minded approach to football after frustrating many Arsenal fans for years by prioritising stylish play even though it did not produce much silverware.

A rare win over Chelsea, in the English season's traditional curtain-raiser, was sealed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's fine goal after 24 minutes.

"In some parts during the game, we tried just to protect our lead," Wenger said.

"You could see that my team was really determined not to give a goal away and sometimes the defensive part took over our offensive potential."

It was a point not lost on Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho who is usually considered the master of being on the winning side even if it means not playing beautiful football. Mourinho, Wenger's most bitter rival, said he saw in Arsenal "a team that defends very well, a team that leaves their philosophy in the dressing-room..., that accumulates 10 players behind the ball."

Wenger, who seemed to snub Mourinho as the Chelsea coach shook hands with Arsenal's players after the game, bristled at the suggestion that he was abandoning his normal philosophy.

"We abandoned nothing," he said. "In a game like that we wanted to win and we played like that and I am quite proud of that."

It was the first time in 14 attempts that Wenger had got the upper hand over Mourinho and although he denied it meant anything to him, he said it could give his players a boost.

"As long as I get it ... every time in press conferences, it can have an impact on the team," he said.

"Certainly, the way my team behaved during some periods in the game, it helped, it was important for them to get that hurdle out of the way."

Wenger said the ankle injury that prevented midfielder Jack Wilshere from playing against Chelsea did not appear to be serious.

Mourinho was not sure whether Spain striker Diego Costa, who was also missing yesterday, would recover from an injury in time for Chelsea's opening Premier League game of the new season against Swansea City on Saturday.

Mourinho made a point of congratulating the Arsenal players afterwards as Wenger walked behind him, their long-running feud showing no signs of coming to an end.

"I shook a few hands today after the game, but there's nothing special there," said Wenger, who shoved the Blues boss in last season's Premier League clash at Stamford Bridge.

"I believe in a job where you have to respect people and respect everybody."

Mourinho said: "You see the images, you see where I am. (I was) there for the winners, to wait for them in a point where you only miss me if you want to miss me. "Every Arsenal player came in my direction, which was the easiest thing to do.

"If other people didn't come in my direction, that's not a problem, that's not a story, that's not the end of the world."

Mourinho felt the better team lost, but was pointed in his praise of Wenger's approach, saying Arsenal were "a team that leaves their philosophy in the dressing room".

"The best team lost. And the defensive team won," Mourinho added. "If you want to be pragmatic, like I normally am, I say in a simple way, they score, they didn't concede. Well done. Congratulations."

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