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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 11, 2009

Wenger bemoans cautious opposition

Arsene Wenger believes the Premier League has "lost something" with many teams now adopting a more cautious approach - but vowed to find the answer as Arsenal look to get themselves back into the title race.

The Gunners finally ended the stubborn resistance of Bolton Wanderers when substitute Nicklas Bendtner struck a winner with six minutes left at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

The visitors - who could only name three outfield substitutes following a spate of injuries and suspensions - adopted a very deep 4-5-1 formation, which for the best part of an hour Arsenal struggled to break down.

It is an all-too familiar tactical conundrum which now greets the leading coaches as teams seek to cancel any potent attacking threat rather than attempt to stand toe to toe - which leaders Liverpool discovered to their cost in a goalless draw at Stoke.

"I sit on the bench and I try to put myself in the position of [Bolton manager] Gary Megson and straight away I understand," Wenger said.

"Then after I think we have to be good enough to create the chances if the opposition only defends.

"It is maybe one of the weaknesses of the top Premier League sides this year that teams have learned only to defend away from home, the leading clubs have all struggled with that - even Manchester United, with all their offensive force."

Wenger added: "The Premier League has definitely lost something. When I arrived here in 1996, everybody had a go at you and there was space up and down the flanks. Sometimes you lost the game, but you could see more chances than today.

"You go back 10 years and everybody played a strict 4-4-2. This year I cannot remember any team coming here with two strikers, except Hull who played like that just at the start, but slowly they came back and became like the other teams."

The Gunners boss, though, maintains the new challenge is just how to beat such stubborn resistance with creative flare.

"What is interesting in the game is that every new problem you face the teams have to work to find the answer," he said.

"That problem will only be temporary I think because it will force the teams to work on movement, the technique and the creative side.

"It is important that these teams do not get away with only defending any more and they have to start to take risks as well."

Arsenal forward Robin van Persie felt on Saturday was "not a proper game of football" - but believes the Gunners, who remain outside the top four in fifth place, showed their focus to finally break through a stubborn defensive display.

He said: "The confidence is coming back now because we lost points earlier in the season which was not so clever. I think we will learn from that."

Bolton boss Gary Megson, meanwhile, maintained with the personnel he had available, there were no other options for how to approach the game.

The Bolton boss said: "The way we dropped into our own half is not how we like to play, and we certainly can't do that all the time, but we felt it was something which was forced upon us.

"We wanted to be solid, then go get the ball back and play from there, but you are playing against top class players.

"From a club of our ilk, coming to the top four, you really don't have much choice, especially away from home, in the way that you look to play."

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