Wenger hails character ahead of Newcastle showdown


Arsene Wenger praised his side’s character as they came from behind at Upton Park to end a four game winless streak.

Having drawn with Everton and Chelsea and with defeats dished out by Napoli and Manchester City questions about the Gunners title-credentials were the order of the day when Carlton Cole put West Ham in front early in the second half, but a quickfire brace from Theo Walcott and a low drive by the returning Lukas Podolski turned the game on its head to send Arsenal top of the table again.

Speaking after the game, the boss spoke with pride at the manner in which his squad bounced back: “I am delighted because overall I feel that we controlled the game but we had a difficult period where the game could have changed. That was in the first 10 minutes of the second half where West Ham scored. They had a header on a cross which could have made it 2-0.

“That was certainly the turning point of the game but after that we had plenty of chances in the first half, we couldn’t take our chances but after that we responded very well and won the game in a convincing way.

“That was a kind of game that of course many people would have questioned us had we not won today and even more if we had lost.”

German attacker Lukas Podolski not only scored on his return but also arrowed in the cross which Walcott headed home to edge Arsenal in front. Speaking about the 28-year-old’s impact, Wenger continued: “He has been out for four four months, he has not played one game. I try to get him slowly back to competitiveness and he has shown he can have a huge impact because he can score and make goals – he can give assists.

“On the pitch [in the second half] we had Podolski and Walcott and Giroud and Ozil and Cazorla you know when you lose the ball you can be a bit vulnerable but we had to go for it.”

Arsenal travel to in-form Newcastle in two-days time as they look to end the calendar year as English football’s top dogs. Looking ahead to the challenge posed by Alan Pardew’s team after a tough run, Wenger highlighted the game as another opportunity for his side to prove themselves: “We have another good game now on Sunday at Newcastle who are in full confidence as well so that will be another test.

“The team wants to do well and the character is great. The concentration is top. I believe we had a difficult period just now but honestly that was mainly down to the schedule we had. I think that the schedule was absolutely horrendous but we can show that in the future.”


    • Me too, it didn’t look like we were going to score nor did it look like any subs were coming on either. In a perverse way Ramsey getting injured might just help us as it forces rotation. Wenger doesn’t have a good record rotating his favourite players of which Ramsey is certainly one.

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        • It seams to me he doesn’t want to rotate because he doesn’t want to look like he’s demoting them as some sort of loyalty to past performance. When really he should look at it as rewarding them with a rest for laying the foundations to a potentially productive season.

          Playing the likes of Ramsey and Giroud when they’re out of form and tired punishes them and the team and results suffer, undoing all the hard work they’ve put in.

          Dropping and resting players shouldn’t be seen as a punishment but rather a necessity to having a successful season. The reward for these players should be at the end of the season in the shape of medals!

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        • That’s a bit unfair. Ramsey is a player not having the best game but with a proven track record of scoring or assisting out of nothing. At any point in the game, like the Theo cross, he can rip the game open. Giroud was poor finishing wise but we know he can finish, and considering he is so important defending set pieces, the only thing Allardyce’s goblins are any good at, I would want to play him. It’s good that everyone has their opinions about what they would do were they football managers, but end of the day we should trust Arsene Wenger who has greater insight and is better informed. And may even be a better football manager than us.

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        • I don’t think it’s unfair, Wenger has years of form in over playing his players. Wilshere’s hasn’t recovered from missing an entire season due to being over played and their are many others over the years as well. In fact Ramsey looks to be out for the next 8 weeks from an injury that is probably the result of fatigue, it wouldn’t surprise me if Giroud got injured soon as well.

          Form can’t be a factor either because both Ramsey and Giroud’s form has visibly dropped in the last few weeks.

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      • If we had introduced Chu Young ‘Goals’ Park we could have won by more. Gives us a lot of versatility, can play anywhere on the pitch and is a proven goalscorer at U11 level

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    • Well, considering that up to that point Ramsey had delivered the best two passes of the game, creating the chances for Walcott and Giroud, then it is safe to assume that he would have contributed in the win.

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    • He’s being sent out on the wing to develop his speed on the ball and movement, it’s exactly what Arsene did with Ramsey to help him come back to full speed after his long injury. Reckon next season we’ll see a totally transformed Jack Wilshere, and in the long run a Wilshere-Ramsey double pivot for the next decade 🙂

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  1. So good to see players who are massively talented like Cazorla, Walcott and Podolski starting to pick up the slack when they’ve yet to contribute in the way they did last season

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    • Cazorla especially. You always feel that the team transforms when he starts to really play. Some signs of his form starting to come back yesterday.

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      • It’s no coincidence that when Ramsay went off and Santi was moved out to play more centrally he dictated the pace in the middle- a player of his talent is wasted out wide

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  2. Should this be our midfield/attack now? –

    Arteta, Flamini
    Walcott, Giroud, Podolski

    With Jack and Santi coming on to wreak havoc later on?

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    • I would leave out ozil in favour of Cazorla.

      He has seemed a little complacent and lacking in recent games to me. I love the player but being dropped for a game or two might help wake him up a little. It would also be a chance for Santi to really come back to consistent form which I would dearly love to see.

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      • What do you mean wake up?! He created 8 goal scoring chances yesterday. Just because we don’t finish them doesn’t make him a bad player. That’s his style – you don’t notice him much in the game but he is ruthless – if our finishing was more clinical, we would be beating teams 6-0.

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  3. Jack’s best position is in the middle, and also cazorla’s. But I suspect Cazorla will still play on the left against the toons and poldi a likely second half sub.

    With Cazorla getting back in form and Poldi looking sharp, I think we will remain on the top and probably even widen the gap in the next few weeks.

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    • Cazorla playing wide is not a problem since Özil tends to drift to the right. Him (Santi) playing well yesterday had more to do with him just starting to get back to form after a tough injury and no pre-season whatsoever I believe, and less with him being deployed in the middle. If you recall Özil was still on the field after Ramseys injury, and he (Santi) was the man anyway.

      eh, some weird sentences there. I play the second-language-card..

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  4. Allan pardew is already running scared. talking of how newcastle is a hard place to go as if we don’t know that and saying the place will be “rocking”, expect a tough game blah blah etc.

    We are the Arsenal bitch, we take on all comers. home or away we don’t care we are coming for them 3 points….

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  5. Looking forward to the Newcastle game. Win that & we’re halfway thru the season top, having played everybody. Maybe thatl stop the well you havent played nobody bull.
    Still think City are our main rivals, not Chelsea. City may have beaten Utd, us, Liverpool, Spuds, Newcastle, Everton but they were all at home. They still have to go to all them teams yet. Our place included.

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    • Surely you have to be grinning a Podolski sized grin now the mad hatter’s back? On the pitch for 20 mins and gets himself a goal and an assist. Personally I am over the moon and I’d like for him to be given another chance upfront. Perhaps not against Newcastle, but maybe in the Cardiff game…

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    • Yes, you just may be that. How can one not be pleased at the return to fitness of a top international like Poldi? Surely we’re better for having him available than we were without him? Daft…

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    • N we were not behind for sixty plus minutes they scored in 46 min we scored in 73 so behind for twenty seven mins. In first half we should have scored especially Walcott. That paper thin squad has put us top most without Walcott and podolski available. Yes additions would be welcome but that is a wait and see. And finally in 2008/9 I believe utd didn’t beat a top four side but managed to pick points up against bottom twelve teams and own title so results against top four don’t necessarily have an adverse affect on title credentials. I wouldn’t put vermelean on left Gibbs is better there and Monreal is decent back up. Tv5 has been unlucky in that kos and per have had an unbelievable season so far. Podolski will bring goals from left Walcott from right . Yes we need additional firepower but where do you find a player that’s not cup tied for ucl those are games where I would rest giroud as he already has prem experience and would be vital for those.

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    • “Am I the only one not overjoyed with return of Podolski? With Ozil in the team even Bendtner can score goals”

      You already lost this arguement…..bye.

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  7. 18 games gone and top of the league.
    Or put another way- halfway there!
    And still a lot more to come from this squad.
    Loving it.COYG

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  8. “I believe we had a difficult period just now but honestly that was mainly down to the schedule we had.”
    Looking at our February-March schedule, this was only a trailer.

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    • Mimir January is easier month and February is not so bad as we also have palace and Sunderland to face. End of March and beginning of April where we face city Chelsea and Everton after each other is hard though if we don’t beat bayern we will have a weeks rest between each of those matches and in march we face Stoke Swansea and Tottenham before city Chelsea and Everton.

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  9. Well Newcastle next and a chance to hit 40 points plus for first half of season. We already better than last season where we collected 36 points in first half and 37 in second half. On who should play well I disagree on swapping Ramsey for wilshere I would use flamini or rosicky in Ramsey’s place because simply jack doesn’t get back quickly enough defensively great going forward but defensively not so. Newcastle are only top 8 side we have not faced and we have only failed to pick points up against the two manc clubs. Win against Newcastle and do well in January and we head into February March with confidence. At start of season I thought city and Chelsea would be title challengers with us but thought with squad depth those two had a better chance of competing over entire season. However, with the key injuries we picked up and got through without I think we have a great chance last season we were a point behind Chelsea we are currently two ahead a three point swing in our favour and city were 6 points ahead last season and we are currently 1 ahead so a seven point swing. As for utd sixteen points ahead at end of last season 11 ahead at half way stage last year yet currently 8 points behind which represents a 19 point reversal at halfway stage and a twenty four point swing if we look at end of last seasons results. The next five to six games are a chance to build momentum before facing Liverpool and utd. We then have a mini run before facing city Chelsea and Everton which is a difficult run but a couple of January buys may improve our chances. Martinez, Costa are decent though I would like another defensive player too. What do you guys think will we add a player or two and who do you think we should get in and what positions.

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    • Wow, I’m a little out of breath after reading that Richard! Good points though.

      I think if the 32 million release clause in Costa’s contract is true (not taking anything at face value after last summer…!) then it would be folly not to go in for him. I think Chelsea may make a move to, but for the first time in quite a while I feel we may be a more attractive bet for the player than our pals in West London..

      He only has to speak to his Spanish national team mates Fabregas and Cazorla to hear how wonderful life as a Gooner is – would Mata have the same sort of effusive praise for life at Chelsea? Doubtful..

      Would love to see us really make a statement by signing a truly scary player. Really hoping this is our year. FANTASTIC to see Theo and Poldi come back and hit form. Can’t wait to see the Ox playing again and fired up for an end of season run with us and a shot at a World Cup place.

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  10. I’m fairly confident with our defence. The only weaknesses (for me) are due to lack of game time. With Sagna and Flamini as defensive cover, we’re about as solid as we need to be.

    In the middle we’re as solid as we could ever be. Never wept so much at the thought of our midfield options.

    I’d love to see us buy another striker, but purely to give Giroud a rest. For me Giroud is class and from pre-season onwards his form was out of this world.

    It’s natural teams can keep him quiet. Look at what we did to Suarez! And while teams are focusing on him, we’ve got plenty more options to score goals.

    Bendtner is showing his strength a bit, but another option would be the icing on the cake.
    As Richard said, a massive turn around from last season. And we’re top.

    Very confident the league is ours.

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  11. A Costa or Benzema dat can take half chances in those top of the table clashes is needed in the team..Arsenal is yet to beat any of man u,chelsea or city in two seasons seasons..very worrisome I wld say!

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  12. I read some of these comments and I am astonished by the diversity in the thought of people even when they support one club.

    Special thanks to blogger for these opportunities.

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  13. If we can take any positives from the hard run recently, its that despite it, we are still top of the league thanks largely in part to the hard work put in before hand.

    Yes we have failed to win over the doubters with regards our big game credentials (Champions League looks a far stretch at the moment) but we have worked tediously toward winning the numbers games in beating the ‘smaller’ opposition and that may be where it counts with the title push.

    More positives, the return of both Walcott and Podolski and the return to form of Santi. In particular, where our game has been slightly constricted toward the middle in the first half of season, we now have genuine width on both flanks to mix and match. The goal scoring threat imposed by both Podolski and Walcott I suspect will also free more room for Giroud to prosper in the middle where he is consistently in good positions but 5 inches away (Maybe a bit of better anticipation will tilt the balance for him)

    In midfield, Ramsey may not relish the break but he may profit from it in the long run. This also gives Jack another opportunity to step up through the middle where arguably he offers us a vertical dynamic not matched besides the ever present Diaby.

    but there is also a more defensive option in Flamini or a more creative one in Rosicky to throw into the midfield engine if we need and I think this will be crucial in ensuring we push on above anything-else (Yes even a new striker)

    Looks like Koscielny won’t be out for too long and I don’t think Vermaelen has done too badly coming back in so we should be also solid defensively- Where there may be need for a bit of finesse may be rotation for the fullbacks. not sure if we should have them alternate games rather maybe Sagna and Gibbs could be taken off when need be in the last 20 minutes (Provided we are secure with the result)

    On that note, with regard a new striker, whilst we are feel it will be preferential for a more secure title push, it will largely depend on availability in the market. Being a world cup year, I’m not sure if most strikers (agents) will be willing to commit to contracts in January. Rather if Poddolski and Walcott keep firing, we may have to be content with Bendtner as back up. He didn’t do to badly against West Ham with a decent shot at goal so who knows?

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