Belfast Telegraph

Our league bid would have ended with a loss: Wenger

By Jack Pitt-Brooke

Arsene Wenger feared Arsenal's title challenge was over when they were 1-0 down to Leicester City yesterday.

His side would have slipped eight points behind the Foxes if they had lost, and Wenger admitted that would have been "too much" for Arsenal to recover over the final 12 games of the season.

"For a while, I thought eight points would be too much," Wenger said after the dramatic 2-1 win. "When we came back to five (points), I thought 'OK, it will not be completely over'."

Arsenal are now in a far healthier position, just two points behind Leicester.

"A loss would have been massive," Wenger said. "After that you get all the negative vibes, the belief goes down, it would have been much more difficult. We would not have given up, but eight points is three games to come back. We would need to win three, they would need to lose three."

Wenger revealed that the players were struggling at half-time, after Jamie Vardy's penalty had put Leicester ahead, and praised their recovery. "It was a big mental hurdle for the team, we were shocked at half-time," Wenger said. "We did not see that coming, and we were eight points behind Leicester at half-time.

"It was a mental test for us, because to find yourself down 1-0 at half-time to a team who defends so well, you need to keep going in your head.

"We came back in the second-half with relentless energy. And we took risks to win it. We knew a draw was not good enough. In the end it paid off, thanks to the mental desire of the team to give absolutely everything."

Danny Welbeck won the game in his first appearance after almost 10 months out with injury, and Wenger admitted it was only after training on Saturday he had decided to bring the England international into the squad.

"In the last two days he was convincing in training," Wenger said. "At the start, I planned to play him next week. But in the last two training sessions he was very strong and I decided to include him in the squad in the end.

"Everybody is extremely happy for him, because he has been out for 10 months. That is an eternity for a player."

Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri said he was "very angry" with the defeat because of the two yellow cards referee Martin Atkinson gave Danny Simpson early in the second-half.

"I am very angry because I think I made mistakes," Ranieri said. "But an international referee gave two yellow cards for normal fouls. The match was full of fouls. In the first-half there was a bad tackle from Aaron Ramsey, it was a yellow card, but it is not the same yellow card when Simpson stopped the other player. The referee is OK, but a little severe for us.

"I think the draw should be the real result.

"We lost the chance to score again, and for this reason I am very angry. With 11 v 11 I can tell you we can score a second goal."

Belfast Telegraph


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