Belfast Telegraph

Arsene Wenger: My players are feeling heat

Arsenal 1-1 Wolves: Arsene Wenger accepted Arsenal had let an opportunity pass them by after being held to a frustrating draw by 10-man Wolves at the Emirates Stadium yesterday.

The Gunners could have capitalised on dropped points from Chelsea to climb back into the Barclays Premier League top four with victory in a game put back by 24 hours because of industrial action by some London Underground staff on Boxing Day.

However, despite taking an early lead through Gervinho, Arsenal were pegged back before the break by Steven Fletcher's close-range header.

The visitors then survived the second-half dismissal of midfielder Nenad Milijas by referee Stuart Attwell as inspired keeper Wayne Hennessey denied the home side time and again.

Wenger felt the expectation level had perhaps got the better of his squad.

"It was the kind of day where maybe we were not relaxed enough, maybe we wanted it so much, that we were a bit too in the 'wanting zone' and not enough in just the 'technical zone'," the Arsenal boss said.

"There are going to be a lot of twists and turns.

"When you have the luck of the results yesterday and you play today, you can take advantage of it, that is where the worrying thing is because in the season you have to take your opportunities."

Wenger added: "We just have to keep going and take the positives out of the game.

"It is frustrating, but I am more frustrated by the result than the performance and the spirit. You cannot fault the attitude, commitment or the desire to win."

In the 57th minute, Laurent Koscielny's cross struck Wolves defender Christophe Berra on the arm, but referee Attwell was not interested - and instead showed a yellow card to Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen for complaining.

Wenger said: "What can I do? It looks like for us, to get a penalty we will have to fight very hard. I have seen the handball at Manchester City and it was definitely handball.

"I personally am responsible for the performance of my team, not for the referee. I have no influence over him.

"Despite that we could have won the game today and that's what we have to look at."

Arsenal were without winger Theo Walcott because of a stomach problem, but the England international is expected to be available for the New Year's Eve visit of QPR.

Wenger, though, remained coy over suggestions of a loan deal to bring former skipper Thierry Henry back before the Major League Soccer season started again in the United States.

Wolves boss Mick McCarthy had punched the air in delight at the final whistle - which came after six minutes of stoppage time during which Arsenal bombarded the visitors' penalty area.

"I am delighted and proud. It was a difficult place to come and play," he said.

"Wayne is a good goalkeeper, one of the best in the league, and he gets a bit to do playing behind us.

"We know we can rely on him and trust him.

"It is fantastic - and it was a great performance today."

Attwell had shown a straight red card to Milijas for a challenge on Mikel Arteta. McCarthy indicated Wolves could appeal.

"He did what he saw. If he sees it again then it can't be [a red card]. He's got his foot on the ground and makes contact with the ball," he said.

"Somebody said to me 'he's got his studs up'. Well, you generally do if you tackle with your foot sliding in."

McCarthy added: "It's pretty pressurised out there for referees and I think there was a lot of pressure on him to do it."

Belfast Telegraph


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