Arsene Wenger declared last night that his Arsenal side has a culture of "shared leadership" which can enable them to compete for silverware on four fronts after they comfortably withstood an old fashioned FA Cup test at a noisy Elland Road.
An evening of virtuoso Arsenal football erased suggestions of dysfunctionality in the club on a day which began with midfielder Denilson seeming to question Cesc Fabregas' captaincy by suggesting in a Brazilian television interview that Arsenal lacked leaders.
Fabregas, who was introduced for the last 19 minutes of his side's 3-1 win over Leeds United, said that "leadership is what we've shown; winning balls and playing for each other" and Wenger, whose side punished some elementary defensive errors in his opponents, reinforced the point.
"[Questioning Fabregas] was not the spirit of the comment [from Denilson]," the Arsenal manager said. "It was an interview in Brazil and I'm sorry; either you have bad translators in England or good translators and bad spirit.
"I have many leaders in the team. Cesc is the captain and [Robin] Van Persie is the vice-captain, they are two very good friends with a lot of respect for each other, but we have shared leadership and there are many captains. Cesc is an outstanding leader, particularly when you consider he is only 22 years old." Denilson explained before the game that he meant, "Arsenal have a very young squad and sometimes lack a more experienced person."
Wenger's discussion of the collective ethos was borne out by Samir Nasri, captain for the night and an early contender for player of the season after another gilded performance and a 14th goal of the season. Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand tipped Nasri for the PFA Player of the Year award, in a Tweet sent while he watched the game, though Wenger was more cautious. "It's a long way to go. The whole team played well and it's hard to single out one player."
But with his side still standing in all three cup competitions – they face Huddersfield at home in the next round of the FA Cup – Wenger was more animated about the idea of their first silverware since the FA Cup win of 2005. "If we have an opportunity we will take it," he said. "We need our players to stay fit. The team goes from strength to strength. We have great spirit and the players showed their hunger tonight. We were too strong for Leeds tonight. We were given a warning in the first game and we were learned our lesson, so that shows my players are intelligent."
The Leeds manager, Simon Grayson, reflected: "If you are going to get knocked out of the FA Cup, you might as well go out to one of the best teams in the world, but we went out fighting. Tonight has been a great occasion for the club and the city, but we want to have these nights for many more years to come." On the prospect of Leeds losing the likes of Robert Snodgrass and Jonathan Howson, he said: "Everybody has a price and we have some very good footballers, but hopefully those players will see that they can realise their ambitions at this club in the years to come."
- More about:
- Ars And #232;ne Wenger
- Francesc Fabregas
- French Football
- Leeds United
- Premier League
- Samir Nasri