Tuesday 12 December 2017

wenger out to rally san zeroes

Arsene Wenger urged his wounded Arsenal players to regroup and show their strength of character in Saturday's FA Cup fifth-round tie at Sunderland after a "shocking" 4-0 defeat to AC Milan shattered their Champions League ambitions.

The Gunners were never in the match as former Tottenham midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng fired the Italians ahead on 15 minutes with a sublime strike, before a brace by ex-Manchester City frontman Robinho and a penalty from the impressive Zlatan Ibrahimovic completed a miserable night for the Gunners, who suffered their worst European defeat.

Not even the introduction of former captain Thierry Henry in the final game of his loan spell from New York Red Bulls could spark a fairytale comeback.

Wenger, however, must lift his squad again for what is now a crucial cup tie at Sunderland this weekend ahead of the north-London derby with Tottenham when the Gunners will look to keep alive hopes of qualifying again for the Champions League with a top-four finish.

"It is difficult to analyse, so it is better not to talk too much, to analyse with a cooler header and regroup for the next game," Wenger said.

"The season is not finished. We have a big game on Saturday and it is a good opportunity to show we have character and mental strength, that we can respond after such a shocking defeat.


"You could blame and blame, but we have to stick together and win the next game.

"A big disappointment like that has consequences on your belief.

"We have a lot of work to regroup and not a lot of time to prepare for Saturday's game, when we need to show something completely different."

Wenger was left dumbfounded by the way Arsenal capitulated at the San Siro.

"It was a shocking result and a shocking performance. It was of those nights you never forget," he said.

"There was not one moment in the 90 minutes we were really in the game, and it was always the same problem, balls over the top and we were well beaten."

The second leg at the Emirates Stadium in a fortnight is now virtually redundant.

Wenger said: "We don't play in a dream world. There is maybe a two percent or five percent (chance) statistically.

"We have to show a completely different performance and you never know, but, you have to say, realistically, we are out of the competition."

For AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri, the victory was the "perfect performance".

The Serie A leaders had not won any of their last seven matches against English clubs, and were knocked out of the Champions League at this stage by Tottenham last season, losing 1-0 at home.

However, the Rossoneri never looked in danger of a repeat.

Allegri had his side well organised from kick-off as Arsenal struggled to get any sort of foothold, regardless of the poor San Siro pitch, with the turf recently relaid down the flanks.

The AC Milan manager said: "We played very well and gave them no goalscoring opportunities. We were especially good when Arsenal had ball possession.

"We have a good lead and it will be necessary to play as well again when we get to London."

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