Arsenal 1 Manchester City 1: Arsene Wenger praises 'courage' of team after recovering from nightmare week
The Gunners fought back to earn a point against City at the Emirates
Courage in football is not just a defender flying into a 40-60 tackle, a goalkeeper diving at a striker’s feet, or even a referee refusing to give a crucial last-minute penalty for the home team. It is also about showing for the ball when your team is struggling, being prepared to keep playing the hard way, passing through the thirds and not lumping it forward.
Arsenal, the team derided as lacking spine after a series of humblings by title rivals, showed that courage against Manchester City on Saturday. Even the shock of conceding an early goal to David Silva, against one of the teams which have put six past them this season, did not stop the likes of Tomas Rosicky, Mikael Arteta and Santi Cazorla demanding the ball and trying to pick the right pass.
“It's a real courage, still to be available when you are insecure, to want the ball when your confidence is not there,” said Arsene Wenger approvingly, almost proudly, of his players. “When you are 3-0 up everyone wants the ball. [Michel] Platini told me once “with the French national team, for the first 20 minutes everyone gives me the ball. When we are 3-0 up, nobody gives me the ball any more”.
Arsenal’s propensity to ship goals in big games may reflect a lack of heart, but more probably it is a consequence of the open way they play and their slim resources compared to City and Chelsea, who have been able to spend vast sums on players who can occupy a defensive midfield role. This season alone City spent £34m on Fernandinho (joining £24m Yaya Toure and £15.8m Javi Garcia) and Chelsea £21m on Nemanja Matic (joining £16m John Obi Mikel and £24m David Luiz). Arsenal re-signed Mathieu Flamini on a free transfer.
What Wenger would give for another Patrick Vieira, or Emmanuel Petit, who he may have had in mind when he said: “You can have good technique and be committed as well. History is full of players who had both of that. That's what we want from the players.”
Wenger got that from his team on Saturday, Flamini’s equaliser earning a deserved point. “We have gone through an absolute nightmare, we have gone through a storm this week,” said Wenger. “It is difficult to protect the players from that. The only way you can deal with it is to respond on the pitch like we did today. We have shown we can fight, that we can be united and that we can respond to adversity. I am very proud of my players because they have shown they have mental strength.”
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