Arsene Wenger admits he fielded a strong side against Lincoln City in the hope that his beleaguered players would regain their confidence after a torrid run that has included five defeats in seven games.
The Gunners had to scrap for the lead against their non-League opponents but cruised to a 5-0 win after the break as Olivier Giroud, Alexis Sanchez, Aaron Ramsey and an own goal added to Theo Walcott’s first half opener.
Speaking after the match, the boss admitted that the mid-week thumping by Bayern influenced his starting lineup.
“I didn’t want to gamble today because I knew that it was very important to win the game and I felt as well that the team had performed well against Bayern and I wanted to give them a chance to find their confidence back by winning the next game.
“That’s why I maintained 90 per cent of the players in the starting line-up. They have been hit very hard after the game [against Bayern] and that is always dangerous because your confidence can go very quickly.”
Wenger also noted that his players, despite being strong favourites at kick-off, were nervous in the opening exchanges.
“We were a bit nervous because your confidence drops when you don’t have the results.
“The team was unjustifiably criticised for our last game against Bayern Munich because we had an outstanding game. The game was killed not by the fault of the players but we have to take a distance with us and have a look at a bigger perspective than people want to do.
“Overall we had to respond today and that’s what we did. We had an outstanding game against Bayern Munich but our game was killed by the referee. I watched this game three times now and it’s still the referee who killed our game.”