Arsene Wenger hailed Arsenal’s determination to grind out a victory after Monday’s 2-1 win at Middlesbrough kept their top-four hopes alive.
Goals from Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil sandwiched an Alvaro Negredo equaliser – and you can read our player ratings from the match here.
Speaking to Sky Sports after the match, Wenger admitted that while Arsenal’s performance was far from perfect, he was grateful to claim all three points.
“We responded well. I think it was not perfect but the commitment and focus was there,” he said. “At 1-1 we found a response and managed to win.
“It was a big test, Middlesbrough gave everything. It’s one of their last chances to stay in the league.”
Wenger was asked if the win was important to keep their top-four hopes on track and he admitted: “It [the top four] is mathematically still alive. We knew we needed to win. Now we have a little break with the FA Cup and then we come back again to the league. It’s still on.”
Arsenal started the game with a three-man defence – the first time they’d played with three at the back for 20 years.
Explaining why he opted for the tactical switch, he explained: “I felt it added a bit more stability on the long balls. We faced a direct game and we have been punished a bit on that. It gave the opponents more of the ball. Against Palace we had 70% possession but lost.
“Sometimes we want to have the ball but when a team lacks confidence just to change the system can help believe something different.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s honest assessment
Speaking about their win, Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain commented: “We have not been good enough, we need to take responsibility for that and today we had to win.
“We had to get back to basics, it’s a massive honour to play for a team like Arsenal, you have to give 100% and maybe that’s been slipping recently. The formation was something new, a change, but we adapted well to it. It worked well in the first half especially.”