The stats suggest that Arsenal were over-run by Tottenham at Wembley yesterday, and in fact we only had one shot on target in the whole game, from Jack Wilshere in the second half, but according to Arsene Wenger we should have been well in front before the break. I have no idea why he should think that as I wouldn’t have even used a Bet365 promo to bet on the Gunners at the moment. Wenger said: “Possession is basically 50/50 in this game. Firstly, I think the game should have been finished at half-time for me. We missed opportunities on counter-attacks that are not missable at our level, due to the final ball.
“In the second half, we should have lost the game by more than one goal at the start. We were destabilised by the goal they scored and they had two or three more opportunities that they could have scored. In the final part of the game, we should have come back to 1-1. That maybe would not have been enough, but would be better than being 1-0 down. Overall, we’ve got mixed feelings because for long periods in the first half, with a bit more quality in our final pass, we would have won this game.
“I believe that we had opportunities, dangerous situations that we didn’t transform into opportunities. That’s where my regret is, that in the final ball we missed something. When you have two or three opportunities like we had in the final part of the game, you want to take your chances in these kinds of games. You know you will not have 10 chances. If you don’t take them, you will suffer at the end of the day. To be at the level mentally is to be capable of using your opportunities. That’s what the top level is about.”
Arsenal’s record of just 4 wins out of 14 games on the road is probably one of the worst I have ever known, and Wenger thinks this is simply down to our strikers not converting the chances they get. “It’s very poor. Once they had scored the goal, that maybe played a part in it. Football is about scoring goals. You can say, ‘We are not strong enough when defending our goal’, but when you look at the numbers and compare them to the top six, we do not score enough goals away from home. These two weaknesses, one added to the other, explain it.”
Aubameyang was brought in to change that, but he hardly got a sniff yesterday in our most crucial fixture in the race for the Top Four. We are now 6 points behind Fourth place but Wenger still hasn’t given up on qualifying for the Champions League. “It’s a game we couldn’t afford to lose, of course. That makes it much more difficult now but we have to fight for as long as we have a mathematical chance. There was more at stake than just the derby, I said that before the game. That’s why it’s so disappointing to lose the game in the way we lost it.”
The Boss is adamant that he doesn’t want to get in through the back door by winning the Europa League, but he accepts that we may have no other choice. “It’s too early, yes. Football is not about switching off for three games and then switching it on for one game. Manchester United decided that once they were in the semi-final. We are far from the semi-final and we have to fight to have a chance to come back. For me, it’s a very disappointing result because the priority has to be to get into the Champions League from the Premier League [top-four finish]. I’m not a great fan of qualifying through the Europa League because I don’t think it’s right. If it’s an opportunity, we’ll have to try to take it as well. The priority is still to be in the Premier League.”
It will certainly be interesting to see what team he puts out against Ostersunds on Thursday, but with no weekend game coming up we should put out our strongest side and try to get a nice lead to take back to the Emirates. I can’t see us qualifying any other way. Can you?