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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Dec 31, 2006

'I have nothing against physical games' - Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has again refuted the claim his side are unable to cope with the physical nature of the Premiership.

Describing his side's fifth away defeat this season as a 'typical, old-fashioned cup game,' the Gunners' were outmuscled by a strong, determined United side who gave everything to the cause.

That was epitomised in the final 35 minutes - including five added on for injuries - when Phil Jagielka stepped between the posts due to goalkeeper Paddy Kenny sustaining a groin injury.

The Blades' defence worked overtime to protect Jagielka, to such an extent he only had one save to make, tipping over the crossbar a shot into the Bramall Lane turf from Robin van Persie.

Arsenal had no answer to United's rugged, blood-and-thunder grasp on a game they won courtesy of Christian Nade's superb 41st-minute strike.

It is not the first time this season Arsenal have failed to cope physically with a more aggressive side, as was the case at Bolton and West Ham.

'It is difficult to accept losing a game like that because you come out of it thinking they didn't create a lot,' said Wenger.

'But that is part of the English game which you get once or twice a year, where it is a typical cup game.

'One or two challenges were difficult to take, especially on van Persie, but despite that we could have won.'

When pressed on the physical aspect, and referring to an incident that was inconclusive between van Persie and United captain Chris Morgan, Wenger added: 'What is physical? Is a punch in the stomach physical?

'I feel for a long time there is a misunderstanding between me and the press about what is physical.

'I have nothing against physical games, but there are things I saw in this game which have nothing to do with that.'

The defeat, ending an unbeaten six-game run and their first in the league to United for 33 years, means the Gunners are now 17 points behind leaders Manchester United.

Yet Wenger is steadfastly refusing to throw in the towel, adding: 'It is difficult to deal with the consequences of the defeat.

'I agree it is a long distance now (to United), but the defeat is tough enough to take, so we will deal with the consequences later.

'But it is never over. We will fight until the last second of the season.'

For that to happen, Wenger needs his big names to return as he was without nine in Sheffield in Thierry Henry, Alexander Hleb, Theo Walcott, Emmanuel Adebayor, Johan Djourou, Freddie Ljungberg, William Gallas, Emmanuel Eboue and Abou Diaby.

Wenger has no idea if any of that group will be fit to face the Addicks, but he refused to make it an excuse for losing to United.

'We had 11 good, strong players on the pitch and they fought very hard,' insisted Wenger.

'They are as strong as the players who are out, so I give them a lot of credit for their spirit, but we lacked a little bit of imagination and finishing.'

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