I'm to blame, says Wenger as title hopes are left in tatters

Arsenal manager admits defeat in race for Premier League after 2-1 loss at hands of Bolton
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The Independent Football

After finally conceding that the title is out of reach in the wake of yesterday's defeat at Bolton, Arsène Wenger said that any blame over Arsenal's failings this season should be directed at him.

Tamir Cohen's late winner at the Reebok earned the home side a 2-1 victory and left Arsenal nine points behind Manchester United – and three adrift of Chelsea – with four games remaining.

Wenger said: "I feel the players have had an outstanding attitude this season. They are not to blame. If somebody is to blame, it's me. I pick the team."

Yesterday's defeat may have been the first in the Premier League since mid-December, but they have only won one of their last six in the league – a run that followed their defeat in the Carling Cup final.

"It's very unsatisfactory because it's one of the easiest run-ins we've had for a long time and we didn't take our chances many times, " said Wenger. "That's frustrating because you feel the potential is there but you have to take your chances. We still lack maturity, experience and calm in important situations."

Arsenal host United at the Emirates on Sunday, but even Wenger now believes his side cannot catch Ferguson's men. He said: "The chances are very minimal now, that is for sure, but we have to continue to fight.

"We dropped too many points. It is very frustrating because we should have come home with nine points this week and we came back with two. It's a bit the story of our season."

Daniel Sturridge, on loan to Bolton form Chelsea, gave Bolton the lead towards the end of the first half. In the opening stages of the second period Johan Djourou was adjudged to have brought down Sturridge but Wojciech Szczesny saved the penalty.

Robin van Persie equalised a minute later and Arsenal pressed for much of the rest of the half, but Cohen headed home in the 90th minute. It was an emotional moment for the Israeli, who celebrated by lifting his shirt to reveal a T-shirt with a picture of his father, the former Liverpool defender Avi, who died in December following a motorcycle accident. Cohen said: "I am very happy to score this goal, it's been a very emotional season for me."

Yesterday's defeat was the final blow of a dire week for Wenger. Last Sunday he had turned on the match officials after his side conceded an extraordinary 102nd-minute equaliser from the penalty spot against Liverpool. Then on Wednesday he had seen Arsenal squander a two-goal lead against Tottenham at White Hart Lane.

Wenger added: "We feel the potential is there but we are in a job where you have to take your chances and be realistic and we still lack something like maturity and experience in important situations.

"When you don't win you are questioned with your principals but if something is wrong in our team it is not that. We still lack something whether it is experience or calm in these situations.

"I'm convinced we good footballing side. We have not been stable enough defensively. We have conceded six goals this week and you can't afford to concede six goals in three games in April and win the championship. Defensively we have been too frail.

"If you can convince me principles are wrong, I am ready [to listen]. We try to play football the proper way, like we did today. When you don't win, you are questioned with your principles. You have to take the right distance to decide whether you do that or something else. If something is wrong in our team then it is not the principles."

Bolton manager Owen Coyle lauded not just the result but the performance of his players after last weekend's disaster at Wembley when his side lost 5-0 to Stoke in the FA Cup semi-final.

He said: "We were obviously intent on trying to win the game but the biggest thing today for me was we gave a big performance. We showed strength of character, resilience, everything you could ask of a group after having such a horrible day. We could have gone 2-0 in front and then Arsenal scored within a minute and, given last week, it would have been easy to feel sorry for ourselves. But we didn't do that, we got blocks in, and it was fitting that Tamir got the winner on such a wonderful day."

Sturridge said: "After last week's result we wanted to come here and show the fans we had the passion. A lot of fans were very unhappy with last week, we did this for the fans."

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