Arsene Wenger praised the mental strength of his Arsenal players after they came from behind to beat Leicester City 2-1 at Emirates Stadium.
Jamie Vardy had put the Foxes ahead with a penalty on the stroke of half-time having been tripped by Nacho Monreal but, after Danny Simpson was sent off after picking up two yellow cards in five minutes, Theo Walcott levelled after coming off the bench.
With Arsenal laying siege to Kasper Schmeichel’s goal, Wenger threw on Danny Welbeck, who had played just an hour for the Under-21s as he strives for fitness having not played a senior game since last April, and the former Manchester United man was on hand to glance home Mesut Ozil’s free-kick in the fifth minute of added time.
Wenger told Sky Sports afterwards: “I just wanted to make sure that we kept our relentless energy, keep going until the end and keep created chances to have an opportunity to come back.
“I believe that we put the right level of intensity from the first minute to the last minute in this game. We were mentally strong because being 1-0 down against a team of that calibre and coming back is very difficult.
“We finished the game with four strikers and Mesut Ozil playing as a deep-lying midfielder. We had to take all the risks to win it and, in the end, they didn’t have the energy to come out and that helped us created chances.”
The win moved Arsenal to within two points of Leicester at the top, but Wenger admitted a defeat would have left the odds stacked against his side in the title race.
“A loss today would have been massive, yes,” he said.
“Even after that you get all the negative vibes, the belief goes down, it would have been much more difficult. We would not have given up, but eight points is three games to come back. We would need to win three, they would need to lose three.
“It keeps us in it, with many other teams so let’s see. We came out of a bad spell with four games without a win, but now we’ve won two games on the bounce.
“After that bad spell, still being in with a chance, is a good result. Hopefully, the result today strengthens belief in the team that we have a chance.”
Wenger was full of praise for Wenger after his match-winner and revealed he had initially planned to leave the striker out.
“You know Danny Welbeck, he is a great guy, with a great mentality,” Wenger said. “He worked extremely hard. That is why he is fit,” Wenger said, having only decided to put the forward on the bench at the last minute.
“(I decided) yesterday. In the last two days he was convincing in training. I planned at the start, when I made my press conference on Friday morning, to play him next week.
“But in the last two training sessions he was very strong and I decided just in the end to include him in the squad.
“It was a great decision because Danny Welbeck is a great player, and you never know in our job, if somebody else had come on, would he have scored or not?
“But everybody is extremely happy for him, because he has been out for 10 months, that is an eternity for a player. We work very hard, our medical team, our fitness team, to bring him back so strong. Let’s not forget he has not played one minute for us.”