Arsene Wenger says Arsenal 'were in shock' and he 'feared it was too much for us' against Leicester

The Gunners pulled themselves back into title contention with a 2-1 win over league leaders Leicester

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The Independent Football

Arsène Wenger feared for the end of Arsenal’s title challenge when they were 1-0 down to Leicester City yesterday. His side would have slipped to eight points behind Leicester if they had lost, and Wenger admitted that would have been “too much” for Arsenal to recover over the final 12 games of the season.

“For a while, I thought eight points would be too much,” Wenger said after the dramatic 2-1 win. “When we came back to five [points], I thought ‘OK, it will not be completely over’.” Arsenal are now in a far healthier position, just two points behind Leicester.

“A loss today would have been massive,” Wenger said. “After that you get all the negative vibes, the belief goes down, it would have been much more difficult. We would not have given up, but eight points is three games to come back. We would need to win three, they would need to lose three.”

Wenger revealed that the players were struggling at half-time, after Jamie Vardy’s penalty had put Leicester ahead, and praised their recovery. “It was a big mental hurdle for the team, we were under shock at half-time,” Wenger said. “We did not see that coming, and we were eight points behind Leicester at half-time.

“It was a mental test for us, because to find yourself down 1-0 at half-time to a team who defends so well, you need to keep going in your head. We came back in the second half with relentless energy. And we took as well all the risks to win it. We knew a draw was not good enough. In the end it paid off, down to the mental desire of the team to give absolutely everything to win it.” 

Danny Welbeck won the game in his first appearance after almost 10 months out with injury, and Wenger admitted it was only after training on Saturday he had decided to bring the England international into the squad. 

“In the last two days he was convincing in training,” Wenger said. “I planned at the start to play him next week. But in the last two training sessions he was very strong and I decided just in the end to include him in the squad. Everybody is extremely happy for him, because he has been out for 10 months, that is an eternity for a player. We work very hard, our medical team, our fitness team, to bring him back so strong.”


The Leicester City manager, Claudio Ranieri, said that he was “very angry” with the defeat because of the two yellow cards referee Martin Atkinson gave Danny Simpson early in the second half. 

“If I think about the match I am very angry because I think maybe I make mistakes,” Ranieri said, “but an international referee gave two yellow cards for normal fouls. The match was full of fouls, and very difficult fouls. In the first half there was a bad tackle from Aaron Ramsey, it was a yellow card, but it is not the same yellow card when Simpson stopped the other player. The referee is OK, but a little severe with us, a little.


“I think the draw should be the real result,” said Ranieri, who believed that Simpson’s sending-off changed the game. “I lost the chance to score again, for this reason I am very angry. With 11 v 11 I can tell you we can score a second goal.”