Wenger: 'It was a shocking performance'


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The Independent Football

Arsène Wenger launched a scathing attack on his own players last night describing their performance in the 4-0 defeat to Milan as "shocking" and the worst he had seen in Europe before raising the white flag and admitting that Arsenal had "realistically" no chance to salvage the tie.

The Arsenal manager departed from his usual tactic of defending his players to react with disbelief to the defeat inflicted on his team by Milan, who come to the Emirates on 6 March for the second leg. He also said that Laurent Koscielny, who came off in the first half last night ,has a knee injury which could compound Arsenal's defensive worries,

Wenger said: "The pitch was a disaster, but our performance was at the level of the pitch. It was a shocking result and a shocking performance. It's a night never to forget. It was our worst night in Europe. We made mistake after mistake and were punished, and deservedly so.

"We were never in the game. We were very poor offensively and defensively. It was shocking to see. It's our worst performances in Europe by far. Not one moment in the 90 minutes were we really in the game.

"We had to chase the game and open our game up and we were caught by balls over the top. It's difficult to analyse. It's better not to talk too much, to analyse with a cooler head and regroup for the next game.

"We will focus on our next games. It's a disaster, but the season is not finished. We have a very big game on Saturday [against Sunderland in the FA Cup fifth round] and it's a good opportunity to show we have the mental strength and character to respond after such a shocking defeat."

Asked whether Arsenal had a chance of salvaging the tie in three weeks' time, Wenger said: "Let's be realistic. We don't play in a dream-world. There may be two per cent or five per cent chance statistically, but realistically we're out of this competition."

Arsenal had more of the possession on Uefa statistics, 53 per cent, completed more passes and covered a greater amount of distance cumulatively, but they created precious few chances. Asked if his players had let him down, Wenger said: "They did not let me down. We let our ambitions down as a unit. We have to stick together and win our next game. The players are very ambitions in the Champions League and will be very sad. We felt powerless to get into the game."

The ITV pundit Roy Keane was equally scathing about Arsenal. He said: "You're looking at Arsenal and thinking 'Where is that desire or hunger to get back?' When Robinho scores with his head you must be in trouble. I don't think he's scored many headers in his career.

"But Milan deserved it. Arsenal didn't get out of the dressing room, they just didn't get started. We watch them every week playing with pace and confidence and it just wasn't happening. They've not turned up. Credit to Milan, they dominated in the midfield."