Arsenal’s Wenger likes Giroud when he’s angry

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger drew comfort from Olivier Giroud’s post-match frustration after the French striker squandered a succession of chances during his side’s 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur.

With Arsenal trailing to Harry Kane’s first-half opener at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, Giroud spurned two gilt-edged headed chances before substitute Kieran Gibbs netted a 77th-minute equaliser.

Giroud also went close to scoring a winner, flashing a half-volley over the bar and testing Hugo Lloris with a header, and Wenger said the France international was left feeling “very angry” about his performance.

But it was a state of mind that encouraged his manager, who said: “I’m pleased. When you see a player who is happy to miss chances, you can worry. He’s a real goal-scorer and he did fight.

“In the last two games, at Bayern (where Arsenal lost 5-1) and tonight (Sunday) again, Giroud worked extremely hard. He wanted too much to score, I think.

“Especially the opportunity he had from six yards (a header that went narrowly wide). But that can happen. I accept that.”

While Arsenal finished the game on top, they would have been out of contention had goalkeeper Petr Cech not produced sharp saves to thwart Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld.

Chelsea captain John Terry predicted that Cech would be worth “12 to 15 points” this season and Wenger acknowledged that he had made a vital contribution against Spurs.

Asked how many points the Czech international had already earned his side, Wenger replied: “I don’t know. I have not done the mathematics yet.

“He’s shown again how important he is and that goalkeeper is maybe the most underrated position in football because there’s always a moment in the game when he can keep you in it. If you lose 2-0, it’s bye-bye.”

Kane struck in the 32nd minute, racing onto Danny Rose’s arcing pass and planting a shot past Cech to register his sixth goal in four games.

– ‘Top player’ –

The 22-year-old went eight matches without scoring at the start of the season and his manager Mauricio Pochettino believes he is now a better player for it.

“We’ve always had confidence in him,” said the Argentine. “Nothing changes for my vision of him when he scores or he doesn’t score. We’re very pleased with him. He’s a top player.

“It was hard for him because it was a period when it was difficult to score. I think he learnt a lot and we’re very happy for that because when you’re young, you need to learn (about) the good and the bad things in football. I think it was a good period for him to learn.”

Pochettino said he was “very proud” of a performance that left Spurs fifth in the table, three points below the top four, and extended their unbeaten league run to 11 matches.

Asked what his team were capable of achieving this season, he said: “In the way the team play today and the way we are, it’s impossible to set a limit.”

While Arsenal missed a chance to move clear of Manchester City at the top of the table, Wenger said that City’s 0-0 draw at Aston Villa put his side’s recent run of five wins and one draw in context.

“We’ve shown the character again today,” said the Frenchman, whose team trail City on goal difference.

“We were a bit on the ropes and we responded. Every time we have a disappointment, the game after I think we respond well.

“When you look at the results again today, you see Villa-City 0-0, Liverpool lost (to Crystal Palace), we played 1-1.

“It just shows you that the championship will be extremely difficult for everybody and that the mental qualities can have a big influence in the future.”

With nine players currently sidelined, Wenger is crossing his fingers that none of his squad return from international duty injured, but he said Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were close to making returns.

Photo Credits : AFP

Wenger warns Arsenal flops to shape up

Arsene Wenger has warned his shell-shocked Arsenal stars they must improve quickly to avoid being cast adrift in the Premier League title race.

Feted as serious title contenders after last season’s FA Cup final rout of Aston Villa and their recent Community Shield victory over league champions Chelsea, Wenger’s side came crashing down to earth on Sunday as West Ham clinched a shock 2-0 win at the Emirates Stadium.

A calamitous misjudgement from Petr Cech allowed Cheikhou Kouyate to net West Ham’s opener and the Arsenal goalkeeper’s slow reaction was also partially to blame when Mauro Zarate bagged the second goal after pouncing on a careless pass from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

It was a familiar story for Arsenal, whose age-old inadequacies were on display as they failed to turn territorial dominance into goals, then found themselves outmuscled by more physical opponents who punished their defensive flaws.

Wenger admitted the result was a significant blow to Arsenal’s pre-season optimism, but he called on them to bounce back at Crystal Palace next Sunday and avoid a repeat of last season’s slow start.

“It is difficult (to recover) but it is part of our job,” Wenger said.

“In any successful team it is how you respond to setbacks that matters.

“It is never a clear motorway. We have to respond quickly because we have a difficult start. Crystal Palace are a good team.”

Cech’s dismal debut was especially galling after he was hailed as the solution to Arsenal’s long-standing goalkeeping problems.

Instead, Wenger must have felt a depressing sense of deja vu as he trod a delicate line between backing his keeper and making clear his unhappiness at such a costly mistake.

“When you concede the goal before half-time, with the experience in our team, it was difficult to understand,” he said.

“It is not only him (Cech), we have enough experience at the back. We are guilty to give them a goal as soft as that, but it was a collective lapse.

“There are many things to say about that. I knew we were in trouble even before the free-kick was taken.

“I can’t see many convincing individual performances. It’s difficult to see beyond that.”

– Lacklustre efforts –

Cech has been Wenger’s only major signing since the end of last season and, earlier in the week, he was keen to distance himself from links with Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema.

Asked if he had changed his mind after the lacklustre efforts of France forward Olivier Giroud against West Ham, Wenger said: “If an exceptional solution turns up we do it, but it’s important not to think we must take a solution from outside.”

While Arsenal struggle to come to terms with a catastrophic start, new West Ham manager Slaven Bilic revelled in a result he hopes will convince his players to trust his methods.

Criticised for fielding a weakened team when West Ham bowed out of the Europa League in midweek, Bilic’s decision to keep his senior stars fresh was rewarded with his club’s first win over their London rivals for eight years.

“It’s really a great start,” he said. “The players will always say they believe in you and your tactics, but the best thing is when you have a great result like this. Then they know it works.”

One of the keys to West Ham’s victory was the remarkably mature Premier League debut of 16-year-old Reece Oxford, who shone in a midfield holding role just weeks after the Londoner became the club’s youngster ever player.

“He did a great job. He has a presence, he is a very cool guy, he was not fazed or impressed by playing at the Emirates,” Bilic said.

“He is still 16, just a boy, but he is definitely going to be a big player.

“We have to manage him off the pitch as well to make sure he can progress.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Wenger pride at historic FA Cup triumph

Arsene Wenger revealed his pride at making history as Arsenal stormed to FA Cup final glory with a 4-0 thrashing of Aston Villa on Saturday.

Goals from Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez, Per Mertesacker and Olivier Giroud ensured Arsenal retained the trophy with the biggest margin of victory in an FA Cup final since 1994.

As an added bonus, Wenger become the first manager in the post-War period to win the competition six times, a tally matched by only George Ramsey, who won the last of his with Villa in 1920.

There was another significant slice of history for Arsenal as they lifted the famous old trophy for the 12th time, moving them ahead of Manchester United as the most successful club in the competition.

“I’m very proud,” Wenger told reporters. “If it has not been done before that means it is hard to do. Everyone wants to achieve things that are difficult.

“Personally I have managed in seven (FA Cup) finals now and won six, so I’m proud of that.

“It is great for the club as well because we won it 12 times.”

After spluttering to a tense extra-time victory in last year’s final against Hull, Wenger was delighted with the way his side tore into Villa right from the kick-off.

“It was a convincing one. We were at it from the first minute until the last,” Wenger said.

“I never felt the focus or quality dropped. We scored just before and after half-time and of course that was too much for Villa with the quality we had today.”

After the high of leading Villa to Premier League survival and their first FA Cup final appearance since 2000, it was a painful low note to end the season on for boss Tim Sherwood.

“They deserved to win, no arguments about that. They have outstanding, world-class footballers and today we couldn’t nullify them or impose ourselves either,” Sherwood said.

“I can’t make any excuses. To be honest you have to take your medicine at 3-0 and then to concede one at the death was a kick in the privates.

“I feel sick and so do the boys. It’s a learning curve for us. We need to build a new team. They need to learn how to be winners.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Arsenal ready for Monaco test says Wenger

Arsene Wenger insists his Arsenal players believe they can overturn a 3-1 deficit against Monaco in the Champions League on Tuesday, but the Gunners manager is less confident about their chances of winning the Premier League.

Goals from Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini secured a 3-0 win over West Ham that left Arsenal in buoyant mood ahead of their tricky last 16 second leg trip to Monaco in midweek.

It also moved them just six points behind Chelsea in the league, albeit with the leaders having two games in hand.

So, Wenger was asked, are Arsenal back in the title race?

“Not at the moment,” he responded. “We just keep going. We have won eight of the last nine.”

While it might be too late for Arsenal to mount a title charge, Wenger claimed it was only the effects of the World Cup that prevented his side being in a position to put more pressure on Chelsea.

And he said they are now a different, more fluent, team because the players know each other much better.

“Today we are a different team. We suffered a lot post-World Cup,” he said.

“What is for sure is the players understand each other much better than six or seven months ago and that makes everyone much more dangerous.”

That could be seen throughout Saturday’s game at the Emirates Stadium, especially for the key first goal from Giroud on 45 minutes.

– Laid siege –

Arsenal had by that point laid siege to the West Ham goal, although with no reward, because goalkeeper Adrian was putting in a supreme performance.

Adrian’s display was all the more impressive because West Ham assistant manager Neil McDonald revealed that the Spaniard had dislocated a finger in the warm-up, but insisted on playing on.

West Ham had already had to reshuffle their team with so many injuries, resulting in Cheikhou Kouyate playing in defence.

“He’s had it strapped up,” McDonald said of the keeper’s injury. “He’s stood up and been counted, which is great.”

Even Adrian’s heroics weren’t enough however.

Mesut Ozil, Ramsey and Giroud interchanged exquisitely, before the French striker rifled the ball in off the far post to make it 1-0.

Giroud had received criticism for his misses against Monaco, but has now responded with two goals in his last two league games and Wenger praised his resilience.

“Always, it’s one of his great strengths. This is a boy who played at 22-23 in division two in France. You need mental strength for that. There’s no red carpet there,” he said.

West Ham put Arsenal under pressure in the second half, which was oddly disrupted by a calf injury to referee Chris Foy, who had to go off for fourth official Anthony Taylor.

But Arsenal eventually picked off the visitors.

Giroud combined with Ramsey for the Welsh midfielder to fire past Adrian in the 81st minute, before Flamini made it 3-0 with an easy finish three minutes later.

The final score was somewhat unfair on West Ham and McDonald said boss Sam Allardyce didn’t attend the post-game press conference because he wanted to pick the players up, who “were feeling really sorry for themselves”.

There was none of that with Arsenal, whose week had started with an FA Cup quarter-final win at Manchester United, and Wenger was gushing about their belief that they can do something special in Europe on Tuesday.

“We now go to Monaco, come out of big week, played at Manchester United, played today a derby. We have a little belief,” he said.

“If you have no belief, you have no chance. We have to have belief and give everything.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Arsenal fortitude key to successful finale

Arsene Wenger believes his players’ mental strength will determine whether Arsenal can finish the season on a high.

Wenger’s side will attempt to tighten their grip on third place in the Premier League when West Ham visit the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

That London derby comes five days after the Gunners recorded a memorable FA Cup victory at Manchester United to set up a Wembley semi-final against Reading or Bradford.

And next week the north Londoners will attempt to overturn a 3-1 deficit when they travel to Monaco for a Champions League last 16 second leg tie.

If Wenger’s players can retain the Cup and finish in the top four, they will have successfully built on their efforts of last season when the FA Cup final triumph over Hull marked an end to the club’s nine-year trophy-drought.

But should they fall short and finish the season empty-handed and outside the top four, the criticism frequently directed at Wenger will be heard once again.

The Arsenal manager accepts the pressure on his team is greater now but says it is down to the players to respond positively.

“We can only help so much, 99 per cent is down to the individual,” Wenger said.

“We can push them over the line with the one per cent we can give, but 99 per cent is them having the responsibility to make their own life.

“You have to stand up to be strong enough, to fight, to show that you have the courage and that you’re not inhibited because you’re under pressure, and that’s the difficulty of the modern player.

“That has increased and the resistance to stress from the young players is immense today because everything is analysed. Every pass you make, every first touch, how far you run, how much you fight, everything.

“There is a verdict on everything so that kind of stress has increased and it’s much more difficult to deal with than it was a few years ago.

“Twenty years ago you could lose a game and people would say, ‘Next time Arsenal will play better’. Today you lose a game and it is always a crisis. It’s not easy for the players to deal with that.”

– Physical games –

Wenger insists his team selection against the Hammers will not be influenced by the looming Monaco game despite his side’s tiredness.

“We were at a high level of fatigue because we played against Monaco, Everton, QPR, Manchester United, all very physical games,” he said.

“I will have to test medically, physically, how the players are on Friday, and I will make my decision then. The big priority is of course West Ham.”

West Ham are likely to be without striker Enner Valencia, who cut his big toe after an accident at home.

Hammers manager Sam Allardyce said: “Enner has had an accident at home and has cut his big toe quite severely on a broken cup.

“We’re not exactly certain but we think it will be too soon for him be considered for the game at Arsenal on Saturday.

“It was a freak accident at a time when we could have done without it due to our lack of available strikers.”

Centre-back Winston Reid is out with a hamstring problem but Alex Song is expected to be fit to face his former club.

“I watched Arsenal’s game away at Manchester United and everyone could see the quality they have,” Allardyce said.

“We know how difficult it is at the Emirates, where we’ve actually gone in front a few times but not managed to hold on.

“We’ll go there and give it our best shot and see what happens. We’ll try and do what we did against Chelsea and see if that’s good enough to get us a result.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Wenger thrilled as Arsenal knock Man United out of FA Cup

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said that Danny Welbeck had been motivated by a desire to prove Manchester United wrong after he knocked his former club out of the FA Cup.

A Manchester-born United academy graduate, England striker Welbeck left for Arsenal in a £16 million ($24.2 million, 22.3 million euros) deal last September after falling out of favour under new manager Louis van Gaal.

The Dutchman claimed Welbeck was not good enough to hold down a starting place at Old Trafford, but his words returned to haunt him as the 24-year-old earned holders Arsenal a 2-1 win on Monday that set up a semi-final meeting with either Reading or Bradford City.

“We want all to do well when we play against our former club to show that we are a great player, but it’s not easy to deal with the mental situation of it,” said Wenger, whose side had not won at United since September 2006.

“But he focused just on his game and didn’t do anything special, just played football like you want him to play. I think he has shown mental strength, because it’s not always easy to deal with that.”

Wenger added: “He wants to win. He is a team player. What I like with Danny is he’s intelligent, he wants to do well for the team, he’s a great talent and recently has done extremely well for the national team.”

Welbeck was moved on at United partly to accommodate Radamel Falcao, who signed from Monaco in a reported £6 million loan deal with a view to a £43.5 million transfer.

The Colombia star has failed to impress in Manchester, scoring only four goals in 20 appearances, and Van Gaal offered an unconvincing justification of his motives for bringing him in at Welbeck’s expense.

When it was put to him that Falcao was struggling, he told a journalist: “He has scored four goals and has three or four assists, so that is his contribution. He stimulates also the other players, so that is an aspect of the profession.

“But it is now easy for you to say that. You are very happy to say that. I see that in your face.”

– Di Maria ‘not smart’ –

To the suggestion that four goals was a meagre return for a world-renowned striker, Van Gaal replied: “I cannot change that. I cannot change facts and you know that, but you can continue (asking).”

Welbeck’s 61st-minute goal saw him seize on a back-pass from Antonio Valencia before rounding David de Gea to score, and he celebrated by clenching his fists in an apparent show of vindication.

It came after Nacho Monreal’s 26th-minute opener had been cancelled out by a flying header from United captain Wayne Rooney.

Angel di Maria provided the assist for Rooney’s goal, but the Argentine’s night ended in disgrace as he was booked for diving and then sent off after tugging referee Michael Olivier’s shirt in protest.

Oliver also booked United substitute Adnan Januzaj for diving and Van Gaal admitted he could have no complaints over Di Maria’s dismissal.

“I know of course and also Angel di Maria knows that he doesn’t have to touch the referee, so that is not so smart of him,” he said.

“But to control emotion is not so easy in such a match, but I have mentioned it also before (to the players) … because I know that in these kind of matches a red card is easily given.”

United now have only Champions League qualification to aim for, with Arsenal one of the teams competing with them for a top-four finish in the Premier League, and Wenger said his side’s victory would give them extra belief.

“Every win makes you stronger,” he said. “We have won at Man City and that helped us to deal with another big game.

“And when you can win big games, it’s more mental. We know we have the football level, but the belief is important.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Wenger salutes strikers as Arsenal maintain revival

Arsene Wenger praised the mental strength of his forwards after Arsenal saw off QPR to make the ideal start to a demanding schedule of five matches in 17 days.

A 2-1 victory at Loftus Road on Wednesday left Arsenal’s manager relieved, with his side’s position in the Premier League’s top four cemented before they focus on overturning a 3-1 deficit in Monaco in two weeks’ time in the Champions League last 16 second leg.

Olivier Giroud missed chances in Arsenal’s home defeat to Monaco which would have given the tie a different complexion at its halfway stage had he taken them.

And Alexis Sanchez had been on a run of seven matches without a goal, but both he and Giroud scored within five second-half minutes to clinch Arsenal’s seventh victory in eight matches, as they maintained their push to qualify for Europe’s elite club competition for an 18th consecutive season.

If they are do so, Giroud and Sanchez will have to fire and Wenger believes this was evidence that they are capable of coming through testing times, in light of recent criticism.

“We were all down after the Monaco game and we responded well against Everton and again today. I think the confidence that we got against Everton paid today,” Wenger said.

“He’s strong mentally, Olivier. He can take some criticism and he’s shown that but I feel it was a bit harsh for him. OK, he missed some chances but that can happen.”

– Selfless moment –

Arsenal had barely threatened Rangers’ goal before Giroud pounced on Kieran Gibbs’ deflected cross to notch up his eighth goal in his last 10 Premier League starts.

Arsenal could have been two goals clear moments later when Sanchez opted to pass when one-on-one with Robert Green, before a more selfless moment allowed him to beat the Rangers goalkeeper at his near post to end his barren run.

“It’s good because when you don’t score for seven or eight games it is on your mind even if you say it’s not,” Wenger added.

“But he took his chance well and he’s tricky and has a short back-lift and scored a good goal. He never gives up and that’s the strength of a good striker as well.

“He’s resilient and I don’t know what happened before. The fact that he still scored showed he has the mental strength to respond.”

Rangers belied their lowly league position until Giroud made the breakthrough, with there being no discernible difference between the side battling for honours and the one fighting for survival.

Arsenal’s class was ultimately enough to win the game, although Rangers gave them a fright when Charlie Austin fired in a superb effort from outside the penalty area with eight minutes remaining.

Rangers manager Chris Ramsey is a boyhood Arsenal fan but could find little satisfaction from his evening.

“I’m just sick for the players today, sick for the way that we’ve not got anything out of the game,” he said.

“The players know that we are in the situation now because we haven’t maximised our abilities, and they know that and are trying to address it.

“What happens is you end up where you are now because probably we’ve been relying too much on Charlie’s goal efforts.”

Reflecting on images of his friend and former Tottenham colleague Tim Sherwood rejoicing after a crucial win as manager of relegation rivals Aston Villa last night, Ramsey added: “There’s nothing worse than seeing your rivals celebrating.

“Hopefully it will be us celebrating at the weekend, but we really can’t focus on the other teams.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Arsenal boss Wenger praises Giroud’s mental strength

Arsene Wenger praised Olivier Giroud’s mental strength and insisted he was never tempted to rest the striker after his misfiring display against Monaco.

Giroud had been replaced after missing a number of chances during the 3-1 Champions League defeat.

But Arsenal manager Wenger kept faith in the forward as his side bounced back in the Premier League with Giroud scoring the first in a 2-0 victory over Everton at the Emirates Stadium.

The manager said: “Oliver has one great quality when he has his back to the wall. He has the personality and the strength to respond.

“Because I know him better now, it is one of the reasons I kept him in the team. Because he was not one out, he acknowledged that he missed his game and when he is conscious of it, he will respond because he has the strength to do it.

“I think he responded very well. I am not just happy because he scored a goal but as well for the work-rate he put in today from the first to the last minute as well.

“He is an important player in the box with his presence up front. Even defensively. He played only an hour the other night so those ingredients were important in my decision to select him.”

Giroud put Arsenal ahead in the 31st minute and Tomas Rosicky wrapped up the victory that keeps Arsenal third with a deflected 89th minute effort.

Wenger added: “I am very proud of the response we have shown today. Our defensive concentration was at a much higher level than on Wednesday night. We know with the ball we can do better but overall what was important for us was to respond with a win and we got that.

“Not everyone can produce that after such a disappointment and it was vital for us for the rest of the season to win the game today.”

Wenger handed a first Premier League start to Gabriel Paulista and the defender drew praise from his manager.

Wenger said: “He had an encouraging performance overall. He was once or twice surprised by the intensity of the challenges but overall he made as well, especially in the first half, a great tackle against Romelu Lukaku in the box. He was highly focussed. A good concentration level. He is quick.”

Everton manager Roberto Martinez was left frustrated after a defeat that means his side have won just once in their last eleven league games.

Nonetheless, Martinez sees grounds for optimism and insists his side is improving.

He said: “I think the second goal was a reflection of our season. We have six players in good positions and it ends up in the back of the net.

“You read the 2-0 scoreline but it doesn’t reflect our game and that’s story of our season. We have never had the momentum you need to win games by doing enough. We have had to be perfect to win games and that is something we have to change in the next eleven games.

“Maybe a bit harsh but when we came back in pre season we had incredible high hopes of being able to carry on where we finished last season.

“But we had two games when we dropped four points in the last minutes and psychologically it felt very, very tough to enjoy our football. It’s been more of a chore having to get those points and I don’t see that enjoyment in the league.

“But I do feel the group is becoming stronger. The dressing room now is really down, something we shouldn’t be sharing after a performance like that at Arsenal, but young players going through these experiences could be the final tick for fulfilling our potential and becoming a winning team.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Wenger happy to see Arsenal win ugly

Arsene Wenger insisted he had no problems watching Arsenal win ugly as the Gunners ground out a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace.

Wenger’s sides have traditionally excelled at overwhelming opponents with their flowing football, only to crumble against teams that pose a more physical challenge.

But they showed a much-needed resiliency to resist Palace’s aggressive approach at Selhurst Park on Saturday and climb to third place in the Premier League, even though they had a late scare when Glenn Murray pulled a goal back in stoppage-time and then hit the post with a header in the dying seconds.

After scoring early and late in the first half through Santi Cazorla’s eighth-minute penalty and Olivier Giroud’s close-range finish, Arsenal faced an onslaught in the second half and they rose to the challenge.

“It was about fighting and playing,” Wenger said. “Crystal Palace is a team which plays with a lot of intensity and with a very direct game.

“It was important for us to resist. We did that well. After going in 2-0 up at half-time we came out in the second half much more to protect our lead.

“When it came back to 2-1 we were a bit fortunate. But in the end it was a very important win for us.”

It was on January 18, in the 2-0 victory away to Manchester City, that Wenger’s men first showed that they could mix style with steel in challenging away games, and here they needed all the stubbornness that Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny could muster in the centre of defence, as well as Francis Coquelin in front of them.

Even so, Arsenal almost conceded a late equaliser, and Wenger admitted that it had been a narrow escape.

“Certainly, they thought: ‘It’s done’,” Wenger said. “But you know in the Premier League, it’s never done, especially at 2-0. The players switched off too early.

“But our defenders played very well here against a very physical game. We just continue to fight.”

Palace manager Alan Pardew was proud of his team’s battling spirit and of the way they refused to be overawed by Arsenal.

And, despite a second successive defeat, he believes the players will gain in confidence over the rest of the season as a result.

“The first goal was tough on us because it looked like the incident was outside the box and the second was offside,” he said.

“But we continued with the game plan and I was very pleased with the reaction.

“We took a tactical decision to take the game to Arsenal and it’s probably the best we’ve played since I’ve been manager.

“In the second half we stayed on the front foot and took the game to Arsenal.”

Pardew felt it was only bad luck, when Murray’s late effort hit a post, that denied the Eagles what would have been a remarkable escape.

“The chance when it hit that post and it fell into the goalkeeper’s hands summed our day up,” he said.

“I thought it was going to spin into the net. There was some great team play and probably the best players were on our team.

“We had some great individual performances. If there is one criticism, we should have taken our shots earlier. Our final moment in that box needs to improve but we are not far away from being a decent team.

“But we’ve lost and sometimes that happens. We’ll have to take this confidence into the game against West Ham next Saturday.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Giroud a different player now, says Arsenal boss Wenger

Arsene Wenger believes Olivier Giroud has transformed as a player during his time at Arsenal, as the French striker scored twice at the Emirates to beat Middlesbrough 2-0 and send the FA Cup holders into the quarter-finals.

Giroud hit two goals in two minutes just before the half-hour, with Wenger especially pleased with the manner of the goals.

The first, after 27 minutes, came at the end of a flowing move than involved every player in the Arsenal starting XI. The second, on 29 minutes, involved a piece of quick thinking as Giroud reacted first to Alexis Sanchez’s rapidly taken corner.

Wenger believes the finishing, at the least, is the product of the evolution Giroud has undergone since arriving at the Emirates in 2012.

“I believe Giroud is a different player from the guy who arrived here,” Wenger said.

“He understands what top-level football demands, works with great concentration in training, improved on his mobility, technical quality. Of course his body is very strong and he uses it very well.”

Wenger was also hugely enthused with how the different characteristics of both goals showed alternate qualities of his side.

“The first goal is what we tried to do in our build-up,” Wenger said.

“The second goal shows the game belongs to the players as well. It’s a consequence of two players who respond quickly to a situation and analysing quickly what they want to do well. That’s basically what it was, a consequence of intelligence and technique.”

The other main positive for Arsenal, from what was a very easy win, was the performance of new signing Gabriel Paulista.

The defender prevented one Middlesbrough attack with a hugely industrial foul, but was generally composed.

“It was interesting to observe Gabriel today,” said Wenger.

“His first game in a cup game which we had absolutely to win, he showed important qualities, great concentration, great urgency to defend, good pace, especially on the recovery tackle he made in the box.

“He played a little bit with the handbrake because he didn’t want to make a mistake.

“From what I’ve seen, there’s a lot to come.”

– eager Sanchez –

Wenger believes the strong team he picked indicates his desire to defend the FA Cup, as he revealed Alexis Sanchez was again eager to play, despite expectation he might be rested.

“Alexis became strong as the game went on. I took a gamble, and took him off with 20 minutes to play.

“He always wants to play. Everybody is like that, but he is bit more like that. He didn’t miss too many games.

“What was important for him was to get through without injury.”

Aitor Karanka meanwhile said he “didn’t like anything” about Middlesbrough’s first-half performance, as his side — who have rightfully received much praise this season, not least for the defeat of Manchester City in the fourth round — were simply brushed away.

The Spaniard said that earlier victory might have made his players think the game would be “easier” and that they were far from the “perfect” level shown at the Etihad.

“If you want to take something from games against Arsenal today, you have to be perfect, like at Etihad Stadium and you have to take advantage of your chances. If you make mistakes, it’s difficult.

“I don’t know if it’s frustration. A little bit disappointed because everybody was expecting a game like against Liverpool or Man City. This is my biggest concern. We didn’t go to the pitch in the way we usually go.

“The second half was better, but the first half I didn’t like anything.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Arsenal climb to fourth after holding off Leicester

Arsenal got back on track after their derby misery with a 2-1 victory over Leicester that lifted the Gunners into fourth place in the Premier League on Tuesday.

Arsene Wenger’s side had slumped to a dispiriting late defeat against north London rivals Tottenham on Saturday, but they rebounded at the Emirates Stadium thanks to first half goals from Laurent Koscielny and Theo Walcott.

It was hardly Arsenal’s most dominant display and they had to survive a Leicester fightback in the second half following Andrej Kramaric’s strike for the visitors.

But Wenger, whose team will drop back down to fifth if Manchester United beat Burnley on Wednesday, will be relieved to see his team’s morale wasn’t damaged by that derby defeat at the weekend.

The only downside for Arsenal was an injury to Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey.

The result was another blow for Leicester manager Nigel Pearson, who had been under huge pressure following his touchline scuffle with Crystal Palace’s James McArthur and then speculation on Sunday that he had been sacked.

But, as impressive as this display was, it doesn’t alleviate Leicester’s situation and they are now five points adrift of safety.

What will infuriate Pearson, more than any opposition player accidentally sliding into him as McArthur did, was the more deliberate barge which set up Koscielny’s opening goal.

While Riyad Mahrez had enjoyed the freedom of the home side’s left flank before seeing a show narrowly deflected wide by David Ospina, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil had to graft to eke out their first chance of the game.

A fine ball from the German put Walcott through, only for Mark Schwarzer to stand up strong, and the goalkeeper then pushed away another Ozil shot minutes later.

It was from the resulting 27th minute corner, though, that all Leicester’s hard work was undone.

As Ozil whipped in the set-piece, Sanchez barged Paul Konchesky aside, and Koscielny was left with enough open space to easily guide the ball in.

– Deeper damage –

Leicester continued to gamely battle, but there was a feeling the deeper damage had been done.

By the end of the half, Arsenal were ripping them apart, and starting to create chances at will.

Eventually, Arsenal broke through again as Ozil battered a shot at Schwarzer.

The goalkeeper could only parry it into the path of Walcott, who emphatically volleyed it into the net on 41 minutes.

It could easily have been 3-0 just before the break, as Leicester were forced into increasingly desperate challenges to keep the home side at bay.

After what had been in a hugely tepid start, in which Arsenal genuinely seemed to have been affected by the weekend’s defeat, they had rediscovered their recent verve, only to relax a little too much again.

Wenger’s side offered little once the second half started, and it wasn’t long until Leicester let them know they were in a match.

By the 61st minute, impressive new signing Kramaric had already brought a fine save from David Ospina before forcing a corner.

That broke to the edge of the box to Kramaric, who fired home to make it 2-1.

Suddenly, it was Leicester again doing all the running, with Mahrez back in the game.

He almost made it 2-2 on 73 minutes, but his surge and shot finished narrowly outside Ospina’s post.

Kramaric was presented with another opportunity 11 minutes from the end but, with Arsenal defenders closing in, he opted to try and chip the ball over the goalkeeper.

Ospina caught it, and the home side were able to catch their breath.

They survived until the end, but substitute Ramsey didn’t, as he had to go off injured just minutes after coming on.

Photo Credits : AFP

Wenger warns Wilshere to ‘master his life’

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told Jack Wilshere he must “master his life” after confirming the Gunners midfielder had apologised for being photographed holding a shisha pipe at a nightclub.

Wilshere, 23, who is nearing a return to first-team action following ankle surgery, generated unwelcome headlines after pictures were posted on social media following a night out in London.

It was not the first time Wilshere has found himself in an unflattering photograph after he was pictured smoking in Las Vegas last year with England goalkeeper Joe Hart after the World Cup.

Wenger, speaking Friday ahead of Arsenal’s north London derby against Tottenham Hotspur this weekend, said Wilshere had apologised and that the player had been reminded of his responsibilities.

“I have spoken with him about that (smoking) and he is not a smoker,” Wenger said. He is of course sorry for what has happened.

“It is down to him to master his life. He had the day off the next day and he went out to watch the Super Bowl.

“When he is here he has to follow the rules that we dictate here. When he is out of his job, it is his own responsibility to behave like he wants to behave.”

The veteran French manager added: “I believe his photo has been taken at half past 12 when he watched the Super Bowl. I don’t know any more of what happened and it’s not of a big interest.”

Thursday saw Wilshere post a video of himself in training as he recovered from ankle surgery along with the message: “Worry about your character not your reputation, because your character is who you are and your reputation is only what people who don’t know you think about you!”

Wenger added Friday that much of the recent publicity surrounding Wilshere was unfair to a player whose career has been blighted by injury.

“You are always worried for your players that they get what they don’t deserve, but I think I observe him well and he behaves in a very professional way,” Wenger said.

“Jack has gone through some bad spells in his career and always recovered.

“It would be wrong to give him that kind of (bad) reputation because he is a serious player and he works very hard.

“He is two weeks ahead of schedule in his (recovery) training, and you don’t do that if you are not serious.”

Wenger also told reporters: “You have been 20 as well. You need sometimes to relieve the pressure a bit.

“Today it is much more difficult because everywhere you go people make photos and a photo shows one second of your life.

“It doesn’t define who you are,” added Wenger, who took action against Wojciech Szczesny after it emerged the Arsenal goalkeeper had smoked a cigarette in the showers following the 2-0 defeat at Southampton on New Year’s Day.

Arsenal have won their last five games and Wenger warned that a fully-fit Wilshere would not be guaranteed a first-team place.

“Any player has a battle in our squad now,” he said.

Photo Credits : AFP

Gabriel swoop gives Wenger renewed hope

Arsene Wenger believes his swoop for Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista could prove a turning point in Arsenal’s battle to qualify for the Champions League.

Wenger splashed out £11.5 million ($17 million) to sign Gabriel from Villarreal earlier this week and the 24-year-old could make his debut against Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Gabriel’s arrival comes with Arsenal in the midst of a tense struggle to book their place in next season’s Champions League via a top-four finish in the Premier League.

The fifth placed Gunners trail fourth placed Manchester United by one point and are also scrapping with Southampton and Tottenham for the coveted berths in Europe’s elite club competition.

But, after a series of injuries threatened to undermine Arsenal’s already fragile back-four, Wenger is confident Gabriel will be able to immediately solidify his defence, even though he doesn’t speak a word of English yet.

“He is a specialist at centre-back and with the fixtures we have in front of us, that is needed,” Wenger said.

“What I saw was a great quality for a defender, his level of concentration.

“He is physically able to adapt to the Premier League because he is quite a good size and is quick as well, has great commitment in the challenges and is a good age for a central defender as well.

“You always need time to adapt, especially in a defensive position because you need to know your partners.

“At the moment he does not speak a word of English and that can cost you goals, if you mix going forwards with going backwards, so you need to you need to communicate.

“We try to teach the important words, for example — offside or look at the linesman!

“But first and above all, we need a collective effort to defend well.”

– No manic Monday –

After starting 2015 with a dispiriting loss at Southampton, the north Londoners have reeled off four successive victories — two in the league and two in the FA Cup — to restore morale and give Wenger confidence that he doesn’t need to spend Monday’s final day of the transfer window in a frantic bid to land more new signings.

“If I wake up in the morning and somebody is stood in front of my door who is an exceptional player, I will open the door,” he said.

“Number wise, we look all right now, and quality as well.

“I always left it late in the past because we could not finish the deals before.”

Arsenal’s 2-0 win at champions Manchester City in their last league match put them right back into the top four race, but Wenger won’t be happy until his notoriously inconsistent side produce that kind of dynamic display on a regular basis.

“We know we have some ground to make up and the fight around the top four is very difficult, the target is consistency now,” said Wenger, who hopes Chile forward Alexis Sanchez will pass a late fitness test on a hamstring injury in time to face Villa.

Villa manager Paul Lambert is also hoping for great things from a new signing after landing Scott Sinclair on loan from Manchester City.

The 25-year-old has made just 12 appearances for City since joining them back in 2012 but, despite joining a struggling Villa team, Lambert is confident Sinclair will make the most of his latest opportunity to fulfil his potential.

“I’m thankful we got the deal done because I think he’s a player with great unfulfilled potential,” Lambert said.

“In hindsight, maybe for his own playing career, the Manchester City move was not a good one for him.

“I’m pretty sure he will have learnt a lot in football terms from it. Now’s the time he can kick on and get his career up and running.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Arsenal masterclass sets standard, says Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said that his side had established a benchmark for the rest of their season after recording an impressive 2-0 victory at Manchester City.

Santi Cazorla scored from the penalty spot and set up Olivier Giroud for a 67th-minute header on Sunday as Arsenal registered a first away win against a team defending the Premier League title since May 2002.

As well as leaving City five points adrift of leaders Chelsea in the title race, the result took Arsenal to within a point of the Champions League places and Wenger called on his players to build on their display.

Asked if it could prove a significant victory, the Frenchman told his post-match press conference: “Time will tell. What is for sure is that it increases the level of belief and confidence.

“The five months in front of us are very important in the lifespan of the team. What you make of that will of course decide our season. Games like that can help (you) to do very well.”

Cazorla’s performance earned warm praise from both his teammates and his manager, with Aaron Ramsey describing him as “different class” and Wenger branding the 30-year-old Spaniard “superb”.

“Since Cazorla plays centrally — he has played a lot wide — I think now he’s at a level of his career where centrally he can have more influence,” said Wenger, whose team visit Brighton and Hove Albion in the FA Cup this weekend.

“He is fantastic because he gets you out of pressure in very tight situations and finds openings that are very interesting.

“He’s a good example for young players. He shows as well how important it is to be two-footed in the middle of the park. I think it’s a vital quality for a midfielder today.

“On top of that, he always likes to have the ball. He passionately loves the game.”

Arsenal were dealt some humiliating away defeats last season, losing 6-3 at City, 5-1 at Liverpool and 6-0 at Chelsea in Wenger’s 1,000th game at the club, but they defended with discipline and resilience on Sunday.

– ‘We didn’t have ideas’ –

With Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain tucking in from wide positions, Arsenal succeeded in smothering City’s midfielders, and Ramsey felt it was the key to their success.

“We felt like in the past we were too open, but today (Sunday) we definitely defended as a team and did not give any room in the middle for David Silva to get into those little pockets he loves,” the Welshman told Sky Sports.

“We forced them wide and we dealt with it. And obviously we took advantage of our chances going forward.”

City manager Manuel Pellegrini was left to rue the moment mid-way through the first half when fit-again captain Vincent Kompany conceded a penalty by stepping across the path of Arsenal left-back Nacho Monreal.

“I think it was not a penalty,” said the Chilean, whose side badly missed the muscular promptings of the absent Yaya Toure, who is at the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast.

“The movement of Vincent was unnecessary. I think it was a very important action because we were nervous after the goal. But I don’t want to have the excuse that the referee whistled for Arsenal.”

Pellegrini attributed City’s defeat to an absence of invention in possession and called for an improvement ahead of his side’s showdown at Chelsea on January 31.

“The game we must play at Stamford Bridge is a very important game,” he said, following his side’s first loss in 15 matches.

“We must close the gap again to two points. We’ll see in that game what will happen, but I hope that we are going to recover the way we are playing so far, except this game.

“We run a lot and we work a lot and we are a very aggressive team without the ball, but with the ball we didn’t have the ideas.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Wenger relieved as Sanchez sets pace

Arsene Wenger believes Alexis Sanchez’s tireless display in Arsenal’s FA Cup win against Hull proves the Chile forward has the stamina to lead the Gunners’ challenge for silverware.

Despite playing three times in seven days over the festive period, Sanchez looked remarkably fresh as he helped the holders kick off their defence of the Cup with a 2-0 third round success at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Wenger had considered resting Sanchez against the Tigers but, with a victory essential after last week’s lacklustre defeat at Southampton, he felt the former Barcelona star would be a vital presence.

Sanchez repaid Wenger’s faith by delivering the corner that set up Per Mertesacker’s first half opener and he capped a lively performance with a fine finish from the edge of the penalty area in the closing stages.

The 26-year-old has now scored 16 times in his debut season with the Gunners and Wenger is confident that, unlike many foreign stars who struggle to adapt to the gruelling demands of English football, Sanchez will still be going strong when the trophies are handed out in May.

“He always looked dangerous,” Wenger said. “He is incisive, penetrating and has a good change of direction. He is interesting to watch because he has a good fighting spirit as well.

“I was tempted to rest him but I knew it was an important game for us and he seemed ready.

“I hope we can keep this level of energy for the whole season. When a player is confident it is important to keep them playing.

“He has the physical potential to recover very quickly and our tests show he doesn’t seem to have any fatigue problems.”

– Clinical Gunners –

After a frustratingly inconsistent first half of the season, Wenger knew Arsenal could ill-afford another setback on Sunday and he took heart from the clinical way his players stuck to the task of killing off lacklustre Hull.

“I believe we had a serious performance. We were in control. It is a positive game because we created many chances,” Wenger said.

“It took us a while to get the second goal so you never know what can happen but overall we had a good performance.”

Wenger was also pleased Theo Walcott made his first start for a year as the England winger stepped up his recovery from a serious knee injury sustained against Tottenham in the FA Cup third round last season.

Walcott lasted 76 minutes, showing a few glimpses of his blistering pace and prompting Wenger to say: “There were some positive signs, he was dangerous.

“He has not lost the quality of his runs. He lacks a little the competition because he has been out for a year, but what he has done today after being out so long is quite positive.”

Just eight months after suffering the heartache of blowing a two-goal lead in the FA Cup final against Arsenal, this was a tame exit for Hull.

Manager Steve Bruce made 10 changes after deciding the fight to avoid relegation from the Premier League was more important than another cup run.

“It is a fair result, we huffed and puffed but didn’t have any cutting edge to make the cup tie come alive,” Bruce said.

“It was a big ask to come to the Emirates after three games in six days.

“It wasn’t a case of disrespecting the cup because we had one of the best days of our lives in the competition last year.”

With the survival fight in mind, Bruce reaffirmed his interest in signing former Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe from FC Toronto.

“Most clubs in our position would like a player like Jermain,” he said.

“If there is a chance, we would be interested in him, but I don’t want to get the hopes up of all the Hull supporters. He might be too expensive.”

Wenger battles to vanquish Arsenal ghosts

Arsene Wenger admits Arsenal must deal with the spectre of their defensive “ghosts” if they are to get their spluttering season back on track.

Wenger’s side are desperate for a morale-boosting victory as they open their defence of the FA Cup in a repeat of last season’s final against Hull at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Having started 2015 in dispiriting style with an error-strewn 2-0 defeat at Southampton, which left them languishing in sixth place in the Premier League, Gunners boss Wenger knows Arsenal have some psychological issues to overcome before they can hope for a more positive second half of the season.

Plagued by defensive frailties for several years, Arsenal were once again architects of their own downfall at St Mary’s when a pair of costly blunders from goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny were compounded by poor play from centre-backs Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker.

“I cannot fault the attitude of the team, but we were again haunted by the ghost of what we have seen since the start of the season,” Wenger said.

“This is not the first time it has happened. We did not defend well enough in the final third, and we paid a heavy price. It is a self-inflicted defeat.”

– Increasingly frustrated –

The dramatic 3-2 victory over Hull at Wembley in May, when the Gunners recovered from two goals down to lift the FA Cup and end their nine-year trophy drought, was supposed to herald the start of a new successful era for Wenger’s side.

But they remain troubled by the same inconsistences that have vexed Wenger for so long.

Arsenal fans are growing increasingly frustrated by their team’s problems, with one man arrested after invading the St Mary’s pitch to berate Wenger on Thursday.

And Mertesacker accepts there will be some soul searching as the Gunners look to rediscover the form which had seen them head to Southampton on the back of just one defeat out of nine games in all competitions.

“The last two matches we were in good spirits and those games were close together (over Christmas) and we fought really hard for the two wins, but at Southampton, it was slightly different, we didn’t show up with a good performance,” Mertesacker said.

“We have to come back to our main strength and we have to remind ourselves every day that we need to have a big performance.”

Wenger will rotate his squad against Steve Bruce’s team, with Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina set to replace Szczesny.

Danny Welbeck missed the Southampton game because of a thigh problem and the Gunners striker is expected to be sidelined again, while Olivier Giroud serves the last part of his three-match suspension.

England winger Theo Walcott could come back into the side following his return to fitness, along with French midfielder Mathieu Flamini

“I will make a few changes (against Hull), that is for sure,” Wenger added.

Hull would dearly love to avenge the Cup final loss, but Bruce is more concerned with ensuring the injury-hit Tigers don’t get dragged into a fight to avoid relegation.

“The disappointing thing was we’ve lost three or four players through the ridiculous programme over Christmas,” Bruce said.

“The travelling and everything involved with it is total nonsense. We’ve lost three more arguably to fatigue. (Liam) Rosenior has a hamstring, (Andy) Robertson needs an ankle X-ray and Gaston Ramirez hurt his groin.

“As well as that, Abel Hernandez is physically exhausted.”

Wenger upbeat as injured Gunners return

Arsene Wenger is upbeat about a strong second half of the season showing from an Arsenal side set to capitalise on the return of injured players like Mesut Ozil and Mikel Arteta.

Wenger expects Ozil and Arteta to return to action in January, while Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny are due back imminently to help reignite the Gunners’ quest for a top-four finish in the Premier League.

The Christmas schedule features fixtures against QPR, West Ham and Southampton and Wenger believes Arsenal, who occupy sixth place in the table, will soon be in a position to realise their potential.

“To give absolutely everything in every single game until the end of the season,” replied Wenger when asked to outline his aspirations for his team heading into the festive period on Tuesday.

“I believe that with the injuries coming back we will have a much stronger squad than we had for the past two months.

“I believe 2015 can be very exciting if we manage to get our injured players back and have a good run.

“Finishing in the top four is always the minimum required here. We have the Champions League and we have the FA Cup and we want to come back in a much stronger position in the Premier League, and I think we will.

“Our Christmas is not an easy schedule – it’s a tough schedule. There are three games in a very short period of time and we can make up points.

“It’s a period where you have an opportunity to make points. Our opponents will think that as well, but let’s just put the performances in and capitalise on it.”

Ozil and Arteta are on target for January comebacks from knee and calf injuries and although Ramsey and Koscielny may miss the Boxing Day showdown with hamstring and calf problems, they could both be in action against Southampton on New Year’s Day.

“Ozil will be back at the beginning of January. His rehab has gone well but it took time. He works very hard. He is very focused. Fitness-wise, he is there,” Wenger said.

“Arteta is progressing well. He had a little setback with an ankle problem but it should be very quick now. He will not play before January.

“Ramsey has a chance to be fit for Southampton. The closest at the moment is Koscielny. I believe he’s a bit short for QPR, maybe has a chance for West Ham on Sunday.”

Arsenal are four points adrift of fourth place West Ham and lost further ground on Champions League qualification after conceding an equaliser deep into stoppage time of Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool.

Per Mertesacker’s defending for Martin Skrtel’s header has been criticised, but Wenger refuses to single out his Germany World Cup winner for blame.

“I don’t want to go into any individual assessment. I believe Mertesacker gives his best and that on the corner we conceded it was a more organisational and collective problem because no one talks,” Wenger said.

“It is difficult for the players who played at the World Cup. I said many times you don’t see them really before November and that is the case.

“It’s very difficult for them to get the hunger straight away to go Stoke and win. It takes time to settle and to come back to normal life.”

Under-fire Wenger faces Newcastle threat

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will again look to confound his critics when his side welcome in-form Newcastle United to the Emirates Stadium in the Premier League this weekend.

The Frenchman was jeered by a small group of Arsenal fans as he boarded a train following his team’s 3-2 loss at Stoke City last Saturday, in scenes widely condemned within the football community.

That loss meant Wenger’s side were unable to take advantage of league leaders Chelsea’s first defeat of the season and left the north London club in sixth spot, 13 points adrift of the head of the table.

A title challenge now seems unlikely and while Arsenal reacted positively by winning 4-1 at Galatasaray in the Champions League in mid-week, Wenger remains under scrutiny.

In particular, he has been criticised for his failure to strengthen his defence during the last transfer window, although the manager can point to an alarming run of injuries to key players this season.

A victory over Alan Pardew’s upwardly mobile Newcastle will be the best way to silence the doubters, and midfielder Aaron Ramsey says the players are fully behind their manager.

“It was obviously a disappointing first half at Stoke, but we did well in the second half and almost got back into it,” said the Wales international.

“It was important to bounce back from that defeat and we did that. Every player here wants to work hard for the manager. We proved that again on Tuesday night (against Galatasaray).

“He has been under some unfair criticism, but we are all out there; we are in it together. We wanted to get the result for us and for him.

“I think whenever we go into a game, he knows our qualities, always believes in us and gives us a great feeling for matches. Every time we go out there, we are representing ourselves, our club and our manager.”

– Pardew disgusted –

Wenger is one again facing problems in defence, with Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal injured and Calum Chambers suspended after being dismissed at Stoke.

Midfielder Mikel Arteta and winger Theo Walcott remain sidelined, while Ramsey could be forced out with a hamstring problem.

Meanwhile, Pardew fears the abuse levelled at Wenger last week could make his side’s task harder at the Emirates, because the vast majority of Arsenal fans will want to show their backing for the manager.

“I think 99 percent of Arsenal fans would have been ashamed of what happened and we could get the backlash from it,” Pardew said. “They will want to show him how much they love him.”

Pardew was disgusted by the way Wenger was targeted after the defeat at Stoke, which saw Arsenal come close to completing a comeback after falling 3-0 down.

“It was total disrespect,” said Pardew. “This is a guy who has done an unbelievable job and the stadium should have been named after him.

“When they moved houses (stadiums), they couldn’t have competed in the Champions League without him being so astute in the transfer market.

“Bearing in mind the debt they had when they first moved in, he has done an absolutely marvellous job. He’s had a couple of difficult results recently, but Arsene will get through it as every manager does.”

Newcastle are the Premier League’s form team following their 2-1 victory over Chelsea last week, which left them level on points with Arsenal in seventh place.

They will be without Moussa Sissoko and Steven Taylor because of suspension, while 21-year-old goalkeeper Jak Alnwick will start a league game for the first time because of injuries to Tim Krul and Rob Elliot.