Arsene Wenger has hailed Arsenal’s mental strength to reach the FA Cup final by coming from behind to beat Manchester City 2-1.
He defended his decision to stick to the 3-4-3 formation that had already helped the Gunners secure a 2-1 victory in the previous Premier League clash at Middlesbrough.
Nacho Monreal cancelled Sergio Aguero’s opener before Alexis Sanchez scored an extra-time winner to help Arsenal to come from behind in the game on on Sunday (23 April) and set up an FA Cup final with Chelsea.
Arsenal have come under huge scrutiny in recent weeks after a bad run in the Premier League dented hopes of qualifying for the Champions League ahead of next season. Wenger said his side responded to the critics by passing a mental test against City despite a shaky start to the game.
“We had a strong response,” he said. “We had a little bit of a cautious start, hesitant sometimes, but we didn’t give chances away and we grew into the game.
“Slowly, we became better and better and in the second half we were very strong, in extra-time very strong. We looked solid and dangerous. We played more in the second half. It was a big test for us today – it was a mental test because many people questioned ‘Can we turn up in an occasion like that?’
“That’s why I am very proud [of] the players because they showed they are united and determined.”
Wenger added that his decision to stick to a 3-4-3 formation with Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel and Rob Holding forming the back-line paid off as City struggled to break them until Aguero found the opener in the 62nd minute.
Asked whether he should have played with a three-man defence sooner, he said: “Well, yes. No matter what you do, even if you get it right at some stage, people say ‘Why didn’t you do it earlier?’
“If you get your starting line-up wrong, you change it at half-time. People say: ‘You see, he is a tactical magician!’ because he changed the team at half-time. But they forget that we got it wrong at the start.
“What I did is just to give a bit more security to a team who conceded three goals in the last three away games – at West Brom, at Liverpool, at Crystal Palace. Even to focus on something different for the players recreates some confidence.”
Source: Eduardo Fernandez-Abascal/ International Business Times