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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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Wenger and Wilshere praise resilience

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and in-form midfielder Jack Wilshere suggested their 2-1 win at Aston Villa on Monday was further evidence that the Gunners have the battling qualities required to challenge for the Premier League title.

Arsenal's Jack Wilshere (left) scores his team's opening goal
Arsenal's Jack Wilshere (left) scores his team's opening goal

- Mangan: Arsenal hold nerve

Villa’s late fightback threatened Arsenal’s desire to reclaim top spot in the standings after a weekend when the other six teams vying for positions at the top of English football’s top flight had already recorded victories.

Yet Wenger’s men clung on for another valuable three points, with Wilshere pouring praise on the Arsenal central defensive pairing of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny as they held firm at Villa Park.

“It’s a massive three points, especially in the second half when Villa came at us,” Wilshere told Sky Sports.

“We have done that a lot this season, when we drop a little in the second half and let teams come on to us, but we dealt with it well and we are showing that side of our game. Hopefully it can continue for the rest of the season.

“In the past when that has happened [pressure coming onto Arsenal], you can sort of feel the nerves in the team, but when we are up against it this season, we have Per and Kosielny at the back and they have been brilliant.

“It’s not easy to deal with [Christian] Benteke with [Gabriel] Agbonlahor running off him, but they did it well. Hopefully we can continue that.”

Wenger joined Wilshere in praising the resilience of his team as Arsenal again proved they have injected a backbone into their make-up that may not have been there in previous seasons.

“It was vital for us because in the first half it was more about playing and in the second half it was more about fighting,” was Wenger’s assessment of the game. “We got the answer, even if they had some dangerous situations in front of goal.

“They made it very physical. They put the ball high up in the air, played with three through the middle and we needed a good defensive performance. We have got this [resilience] in this team that was not there when they were younger, but we are showing both sides of the game now.”

Wilshere went on to reflect on his changing role in the Arsenal team and while he admitted he prefers to occupy a central midfield role, the England star conceded the battle to claim a starting spot means he needs to be adaptable to retain his place in the Gunners line-up.

“In this team, we have great competition and it is important we rotate a lot,” he added. “Sometime I play wide, sometimes I play in the middle and as long as we get the results, that all that matters.

“I see myself as an attacking midfielder and if you are one of them, you have to create goals and score goals. You have seen the best midfielders in the past, the [Frank] Lampards and the [Steven] Gerrards, and after coming back from injury this season, I really needed to push on.”

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