Belfast Telegraph

Wenger paise as Ozil rescues sloppy Arsenal

 

By Robert Jones

Under-fire Arsene Wenger praised the "mentality" of his players as Arsenal battled to a 2-1 victory at struggling Middlesbrough, but the Gunners boss again refused to clarify his own future at the club.

Alexis Sanchez had given the visitors the lead with a superb first-half free-kick before Alvaro Negredo levelled for Boro five minutes after the break.

Arsenal had looked on course to extend their recent slump before German star Mesut Ozil lashed home Aaron Ramsey's knockdown on 71 minutes to earn a vital three points.

The Gunners had won just once in their previous five Premier League games, but this victory moved them back above Everton and within seven points of fourth-placed Manchester City, with a game in hand.

Wenger said: "It was positive. The players had a good mentality and they wanted to win the game and they responded. Sometimes the situation can turn the other way around."

Wenger has yet to announce whether he will sign a new deal at the Emirates Stadium or end his lengthy spell in charge when his contract expires at the end of the season.

But the Frenchman was generally pleased with what he saw at the Riverside Stadium despite admitting his team were lacking belief.

Wenger conceded: "You could see we were not playing with full confidence during some moments in the game but overall we wanted to win.

"Overall the commitment and the focus was there. When you're in a lack of confidence situation you know it comes back slowly and only the results help."

Wenger admitted he feared the worst when Middlesbrough grabbed their equaliser.

He added: "It was a testing point for us mentally, of course that was a moment where I felt that now we would see where we go."

Wenger tweaked Arsenal's formation and set out with a three-man defence but the 67-year-old insists it will not be a long-term ploy.

He said: "I felt that it added a bit more stability on the long balls. We knew we would face a direct game and recently we have been punished on that.

"Sometimes when a team lacks confidence, just to change a system can help to believe in something different."

Asked if there was any news on his future, Wenger replied: "No."

He added: "I feel we are in a position where we want to perform. You can always find explanations but we are professional people and our job is to perform.

"Despite sometimes difficult situations, or some situations that lack clarity, we still can perform."

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain admits performances have not been up to scratch of late and was relieved to get back to winning ways.

"What we've done in the past few games is not good enough. We have to take responsibility for that and we've done that this week between ourselves," he said.

"It didn't matter how we won. We needed to go back to the basics and that's making sure our commitment levels are right to play for this football club.

"It's a massive honour to play for a team like Arsenal. You have to give it 100 per cent week in, week out and maybe that had been slipping in the last few weeks."

Arsenal ended a four-game losing run away from home in the Premier League and Laurent Koscielny was satisfied with the result.

The defender said: "It was important to have the three points tonight. We were in a bad situation with a lot of defeats and tonight we needed to come back with our quality.

"It was not perfect. I tried to help the team-mates to fight the duels and play with the ball. It was good to come back with the win. It is good for the confidence, we know the confidence will come back slowly."

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