Criticism fires up Gunners

LONDON. — Arsene Wenger says Arsenal will use criticism of their performance against Manchester United to fuel their bid for the English Premier League title.

Sunday’s 3-2 defeat to Manchester United led some pundits — including Sky Sports’ Graeme Souness — to question the Gunners’ appetite for a battle.

But he says his players will prove their resolve — starting with tonight’s game with Swansea at the Emirates — and suggested the level of criticism was not justified.

“That’s what we want to do — use and transform the negatives around us into positives and create even more solidarity,” he said.

“Let’s not go overboard, we don’t play to be relegated, we play to fight for the Premier League so that’s why we have to put the criticism in the right place.

“I don’t want to respond to individual criticism. I think people are a bit too emotional and we want to put things into perspective by analysing things a bit more in a neutral way. This club is respected all over the world despite what people say.

“I am never surprised by the criticism that comes — that is part of the media today and part of the opinions is always a bit excessive and emotional but we have to deal with that and I don’t complain about that.”

Wenger said the 2-0 Champions League defeat to Barcelona last Tuesday dented his players’ confidence ahead of the Old Trafford match.

“We gave a lot against Barcelona and that certainly had an impact on our belief against Manchester United,” he said.

“We’re not happy with the result. We had two lapses of focus that we paid for.”

He added: “We are not dwelling on results and we are focused on Swansea. Every home game is very important.”

Wenger has denied his Arsenal team lack leaders after they came unstuck in their Premier League title challenge at Manchester United on Sunday.

The Gunners are aiming to get back on track when they host Swansea City tonight, but Wenger feels suggestions his side is short of influential players are wide of the mark.

Speaking in his press conference yesterday, Wenger said: “In a collective psyche you always think you need a saviour when you have a bad result.

“We have won big games this season, many big games with exactly the same players. I don’t feel that I lack leaders.”

But when asked who he felt his leaders in the team were, Wenger declined to mention any names.

He added: “The team, in every position. The players lead and we try to develop that with our work. Our job is to have a leader in every position.”

Arsenal certainly looked short of players who could take a match by the scruff of the neck as they fell to a 3-2 loss at Old Trafford.

Despite Louis van Gaal’s side being decimated by injury, his young line-up still proved too strong as Arsenal fell five points behind leaders Leicester City in the title race.

It came just a few days after the Gunners were beaten 2-0 by Barcelona in the last-16, first leg of the Champions League.

Wenger urged his squad to ignore the criticism that has come their way and return to winning form against Swansea and then Tottenham in the north London derby on Saturday.

He said: “We had a very, very bad week and it’s down to us to make this week a very good one.

“That’s why you love competition, a bad week isn’t permanent and it’s how you respond that is the beauty of sport. Things change quickly one way or another.”

Swansea are in a battle of their own – against relegation. And Wenger expects a tough evening against them.

“Swansea will fight very hard, with great commitment and be very organised defensively,” he said.

Danny Welbeck has scored two goals in two Premier League games since returning from injury, but Wenger says he does not want to push the striker too hard.

“I will have to be cautious with him going into the Swansea game,” he said.

Sunday’s defeat at White Hart Lane did nothing to ease Swansea’s relegation fears, although midfielder Leroy Fer insists there were grounds for optimism ahead of the visit to the Emirates Stadium.

“We have to keep our heads up and go again on Wednesday,” Fer said.

“There are positives to take from Sunday’s game, and we will take that to the Emirates on Wednesday.

“We have a strong squad here, and everyone is desperate to do their part to help the team get points.”

Alberto Palsochi’s first Swansea goal was one of the positives to take from the weekend and the striker – signed from Chievo in January – revealed he was backed on his move to the Premier League by former Italy striker Filippo Inzaghi.

Inzaghi was a senior player when Palsochi broke into the AC Milan first team as a teenager and has remained in touch with his former team-mate.

“He was and still is a great friend to me. When he got to know I was coming to Swansea he sent me a good luck message to wish me the best here,” Palsochi said.

“He is a hero. I would like to be the Inzaghi of Swansea.

“I am very happy and determined to stay here and do well in the Premier League for Swansea. I will do all I can to enjoy my stay here and make it a success.”

 

Tonight’s English Premiership Fixtures (all 9:45pm unless otherwise stated)

Arsenal v Swansea; Liverpool v Manchester City (10pm); Manchester United v Watford (10pm); Stoke City v Newcastle; West Ham v Tottenham Hotspur — Sky Sports-AFP.

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