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Arsene Wenger's verdict on the Sunderland game

Arsene Wenger has admitted that complacency nearly cost us the game on Sunday, but despite the frustration, he took positives from the clash with Sunderland and the resilience of his players in battling to win the match.

“We let Sunderland back into the match on Sunday because after 15 minutes the game appeared to be easy and maybe we convinced ourselves of that,” says Arsene in his post match analysis email. “I feel that a bit of our mental focus went and then you lose three or four per cent, and at that level of course you pay for it.

“We had less urgency in our decision-making, we gave them more room to express themselves defensively and we paid for it. Sunderland made it difficult for us and at the end of the day it was a good lesson for us because they came back to 2-2 and we had to find the resources to get the late winner.”

Wenger continues, “Losing that two-goal lead was very frustrating. When you have experience in football you know that 2-1 is the biggest change psychologically for any game. At 2-1 a team who is losing the game thinks they have a chance, a team that is winning thinks they can now drop points. It gave Sunderland a lot of confidence.

“Of course, if Abou Diaby's 'goal' had been given it would have been different. I don't know how the referee's assistant could disallow that goal and certainly that would have changed the game completely. But you can only live with the decisions that are made and in the end we found the third goal.

“The third goal always looked like it was coming, but when you hit the post once or twice and you don't score, you never know. And Sunderland looked good going forward, in fairness.”

Le Gaffer also singled out Theo Walcott for special praise...

“[He] made a difference when he came on because I felt that we needed some pace to go in behind Sunderland's defence. We gave them too much of the ball and that made it easier for them. Theo gave us something that was certainly needed and he set up the winning goal for Robin van Persie.”

Turning to Gilberto, who celebrated his 31st birthday on Sunday, Wenger played down speculation that the Brazilian midfielder could be on his way out of Arsenal.

“He has not played as many games this season so far but I have a strong relationship with Gilberto, I have a huge respect for him,” says Arsene. “At the moment it is frustrating for him but he is an important player for us. It is a selection problem at the moment but he will come back.”

Wenger concludes that his team are continuing to mature, but with less than one quarter of the season gone, it is premature to predict a return to being champions. “We are back on top of the Premier League, but it is too early to talk about the title,” he says. “What is a good sign is when you lose a two-goal lead you can still win - it means there is great strength and resilience in the team.”

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Posted by Gordon Masson on October 9, 2007 10:31 AM in Match Report| News| Players
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