Sunday 21 January 2018

Wenger: We're now battlers - even Ozil

Mesut Ozil
Mesut Ozil

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is convinced his side now have the required battling qualities to last the distance in the English Premier League title race.

The Gunners had to dig deep to hold off the challenge of Everton and close out a 2-1 win at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

With Manchester City drawing against derby rivals United at Old Trafford yesyerday, Arsenal are second on the back of what was a fourth straight Premier League victory.


Wenger feels the way players like Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil followed in line with midfield enforcer Francis Coquelin and centre-half Gabriel show this group have the stomach for the challenges ahead.

"They are all on board, and they have the belief. They came off the pitch really tired," said Wenger.

"Cazorla won many balls and blocked many tackles, even Ozil.... once you have that in the team, it is not easy to get it, but is shows the belief is there and then you need enough humility to keep it in there."

The Arsenal boss added: "You need to convince the players that you have to work hard to win football games in the Premier and that you need all 11 to do that."

Gabriel produced a composed display at the heart of the Gunners' rearguard, standing in for vice-captain Per Mertesacker, who was ill.

The Brazilian - sent off at Chelsea last month for clashing with Diego Costa - produced a superb late block to thwart a dangerous Everton counter-attack, before letting out a loud roar cheered on by the home supporters.

"Gabriel has shown that he is a fighter," said Wenger.

"At half-time he was so upset at the deflection he got, but in the second half he came out again with the same spirit, it is a fantastic combative aspect.

"He is not a talking leader, he is a fighting leader, and I think he is a typical centre-back for the Premier League."

Wenger has challenged his team to better what was a "perfect week" after the Champions League victory over Bayern Munich.

He said: "I think the attitude at the top level is how can we improve," he said.

"We learn from defeat and we learn from wins - but to learn from wins sometimes is more difficult because it is less natural."


Everton saw captain Phil Jagielka forced off in the second half with a knee injury, the extent of which is still to be assessed, following a challenge with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Manager Roberto Martinez said: "Phil Jagielka doesn't complain often, so for him to come off it must be an injury.

"It is too early to tell, but it is his right knee and it could be one of a number of structures that are damaged."

Martinez, whose side lost 3-0 to Manchester United last weekend, tried to take some positives from the trip to London.

"All in all, to look like you can rescue something from the game after giving away a two-goal lead, it showed what we have in the squad," he said.

"But, from the other side, there is disappointment for giving away such soft goals."

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