Wenger admits Arsenal not at their best; praises mentality

Date published: Saturday 2nd January 2016 6:00

Arsene Wenger: Arsenal now two points clear at top of league

Arsene Wenger admits Arsenal were below-par in their victory over Newcastle United but is happy with the mental strength his players displayed.

Arsenal were on the back foot for large periods at the Emirates, with goalkeeper Petr Cech in impressive form, but scraped a 1-0 win thanks to Laurent Koscielny’s late tap-in.

And Wenger praised his players after the win – which moved the Gunners two points clear at the top of the Premier League.

“It was hard work, but we prepared ourselves mentally. We were not at our best but we had to dig deep and we can do that when needed,” he said.

“If you are down there then those are the matches you lose but they will not stay down there – they are a good team.”

The scrappy win, coupled with Leicester’s goalless stalemate against Bournemouth, means Wenger’s side are now two points clear at the summit – and he was quick to praise the work ethic of his squad on a tough afternoon.

“It was a difficult game against a good Newcastle side,” he said.

“Our legs were a little bit heavy today, overall we were tested against a team that has a lot of technical quality.

“You have to say “let’s stick together and try and win the game if we can, the mental aspect of our game was tested today.

“Not to drop points when you play like we did today is important. It helps the team as well, we will go through the season with moments where we don’t play well and memories of doing that before helps you hang on some times.”

“I know that when you are capable of winning when you don’t play well, that shows a mental aspect of your team that will be very important in moments that will be difficult.”

Cech, who broke the record for clean sheets in Monday’s win at Bournemouth was yet again singled out for special praise from his manager on an afternoon where flair players like Mesut Ozil were largely on the periphery.

“He made two big saves,” Wenger added. “One in the first half and one at the beginning of the second, on top of that he gives calm and never panics and today we needed that.”

Arsenal are currently riddled with injury, with Alexis Sanchez, Francis Coquelin, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Danny Welbeck and Santi Cazorla all currently sidelined.

FC Basel midfielder Mohamed Elneny is expected to join in the January transfer window, but when asked about whether to expect any upcoming signings, Wenger replied: “Imminent, no, but we will look.”

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