Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has described Saturday’s 5-1 defeat at Liverpool as “an accident” and challenged his players to bounce back when they welcome Manchester United on Wednesday.
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The Gunners relinquished top spot in the Premier League to Chelsea following the thrashing at Anfield -- a game which saw the home side score four goals in the opening 19 minutes.
However, Wenger, who says he will remind his players of just “how good they have been this season” ahead of the United clash, is confident his players will respond to the setback in a positive manner.
“It was an accident. Not a welcome one, of course, a very disappointing one. But you have to respond to that,” Wenger’s said of the Liverpool defeat. “Every season has disappointments, it’s always down to the team to respond in a positive way to decide the success.
“Yes of course we will respond tomorrow in a very positive way, I’m convinced of that. This is what we have always done since the start of the season. We are in front of a big game and we have to focus on that. A big part of our season will be decided at the Emirates Stadium. That is what we want to do.
“We tend always to forget how good we are when we are not successful. It’s important then that we remind them [the critics] that we have done very well until now. We have worked very hard to be in this position. I love this group of players, they deserve success. I am sure they will respond.
“We have been a very solid defensive team, but on the day we were not up to it. Sometimes it is hard to find a reason, but the first goal was offside. Nobody mentioned that, but of course that doesn’t explain our defeat. Overall, we were under shock very early on in the game and we didn’t recover.”
Wenger was then asked to respond to the suggestion that his team have not been at their best against the top sides in the Premier League this season, having lost to both Manchester clubs prior to their defeat at Anfield.
“Let’s not forget, we played some convincing performances against Tottenham, Liverpool, [Borussia] Dortmund, Napoli,” he said. “Man City, we were not bad. We had a difficult week before then, but we have a chance to show that people who think that are wrong. We have three big games in front of us.”
Wenger went on to defend record signing Mesut Ozil’s contribution at Anfield, while suggesting the criticism of the midfielder in some sections of the media has been unjustified.
“He has done well,” Wenger said. “He is adapting to the Premier League, we have seen this before. He is conscious of it and he is working hard. I would not like to put too much pressure on him because he is a top-class player and he didn’t give the best of games on Saturday, but he is working hard to adapt to the level of the Premier League.
“For me, he is an exceptional football player. When your performance is not good enough you get criticised or questioned, this is normal. When you look at his physical performances, there is no lack of effort there. I want to see the best of him between now and the end of the season.”