Arshavin short on confidence, admits Wenger

Arsenal 1 Leeds United 1
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The Independent Football

There is an element of self-criticism at Arsenal heading into a week where they will look to edge closer to ending Arsène Wenger's run of six years without a trophy. It started with Cesc Fabregas, who earned an FA Cup third-round replay at Elland Road, pointing the finger at Denilson during his post-match television interview for the penalty awarded to Leeds. And it continued with Theo Walcott issuing an apology for diving in the penalty area.

Frustration from supporters was aimed at Andrei Arshavin and Nicklas Bendtner and Wenger admitted that the two strikers are lacking in confidence.

"It's not through a lack of desire with Arshavin," said Wenger, who attempted to rally the Russian from the touchline. "He wants to do well. Every player during a season has strong and weaker periods and he's had a weaker period, then two or three weeks on the bench and I've no worries that he will come back into the team. But confidence suffers a little bit from that. They [Arshavin and Bendtner] could explain better to you. The longer it didn't go for them, the more the confidence kicks in but even when you're a regular it affects you as a striker. The fans were frustrated. That comes from when you don't win. The fans are demanding. We were not consistent technically and so they picked on our inconsistencies."

Walcott's apology was an extraordinary admission, especially as the assistant referee had overruled Phil Dowd's decision to award a penalty. Walcott said: "I want to apologise to the managers because I actually dived. I was trying to win the penalty."

Dowd did award a spot-kick moments later when Walcott was hauled back by Ben Parker, with Fabregas cancelling out Robert Snodgrass's opener. "We try to analyse our games in an objective way and I'm lucky because our players are self-critical, they analyse themselves well and they want to do well," Wenger added.

"They came into the dressing room with a little bit of relief. We have to accept some criticism. Our fans are great. There's 60,000 people and sometimes you have to say: 'Thank you very much – we'll do better next time'." It was hardly the best preparation for Wednesday's Carling Cup semi-final against Ipswich.

A further problem for Wenger is an injury to Sébastien Squillaci which may force the manager into the transfer market. "Squillaci came off with a little hamstring problem and if we only have two centre-backs then that cannot work with the number of centre- backs we have," he said. "If he has a problem then we must quickly go for a player."

Arsenal will also have to get past Kasper Schmeichel, who pulled off a string of decent saves for the visitors to help earn a replay. The Dane believes Leeds have the ability to cause an upset. He said: "It's not different playing at the Emirates than at Elland Road, it's a great place to play. Playing at great stadiums and in front of great fans is what you're in football for. With the players we've got I think we should be confident against anybody at Elland Road, the atmosphere we can create there is very intimidating."

Arsenal (4-4-3): Szczesny; Eboué, Squillaci, Djourou, Gibbs; Denilson, Song (Fabregas 59), Rosicky (Vela 79); Bendtner, Chamakh (Walcott 67), Arshavin. Substitutes not used Ramsey, Fabianski, Clichy, Miquel.

Booked Rosicky, Denilson.

Leeds United (4-5-1): Schmeichel; Connolly, Bruce, O'Brien, Parker; Watt (Bromby 76), Howson, Johnson, Snodgrass, Gradel (Hughes 90); Becchio (Somma 85). Substitutes not used Collins, McCormack. Paynter, Higgs.

Booked Parker, Howson.

Possession Arsenal 63% Leeds 37%.

Shots on target Arsenal 13 Leeds 2.

Man of the match Schmeichel. Match rating 7/10. Referee P Dowd (Staffordshire).

Attendance 59,520.