Wenger: Semifinal win vs. Wigan crucial
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is convinced his side's dramatic FA Cup semifinal penalty shootout win over Wigan can prove the turning point of their season, while adding he feared what defeat would have done to the squad.
The Gunners will host West Ham on Tuesday night looking to move themselves back above Everton and into the top four of the Premier League on the back of a nerve-shredding encounter at Wembley.
"There was a lot at stake for us," said Wenger. "You know how it is today in football. Had we gone out of course we would have been tremendously questioned and I knew it was a turning point of our season."
Arsenal were just seven minutes away from what would have been another catastrophic failure, trailing 1-0 on Jordi Gomez's second-half penalty. But Per Mertesacker redeemed himself for his earlier costly foul to head home an equaliser.
"To go out on Saturday would have been very difficult," said Wenger. "But we have shown resilience and nerves, and that is an important quality at the top level."
The woodwork denied Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain a winner in extra time, and so the outcome was decided on the lottery of spot kicks. For once this season the Gunners' luck held as stand-in goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski's two early saves proved pivotal in a 4-2 victory.
"It means a lot for the club, and I want to win. I am not standing on the touchline and just expecting a result, I am fighting for the results," said the 64-year-old Wenger, who has yet to sign the offer of a new contract extension. "I want to win every single game, when you go to the FA Cup final, you want to win it."
Wenger knows full well the negative headlines and broken cannon motifs which would have been emblazoned across the sports pages had things once again gone against his side. But he is now one small step closer to finally seeing his side deliver silverware after a near barren decade of unfulfilled potential.
Arsenal lost full-back Nacho Monreal to injury during the second half, while Oxlade-Chamberlain had only just passed a fitness test on a groin problem. Midfielder Tomas Rosicky did not feature at all because of a thigh problem.
"Of course it is a concern as to how fresh we will be on Tuesday night, but to win, we have to recover," said Wenger.
Midfielder Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal have the necessary character to go on and claim a top-four finish. The Spaniard added that his team need to show confidence and that wins like the Wigan victory are confidence builders.
"On Tuesday there is another massive game coming up," said Arteta. "Let's see what we have got, prepare for the game the best way we can because West Ham will be tough opponents again.
"It [fourth] is still there for us. There's still a long way to go, there are four weeks until the end of the season. I believe we can do it, but we need to win all our remaining games because if we don't then I don't think we will do it."