Wenger keeps faith but says Arsenal must improve
Arsene Wenger has refused to write off Arsenal’s chances in the Premier League, but warned his side they must eliminate the defensive mistakes that have scarred recent performances.
The Gunners manager watched in frustration as his side allowed a two-goal lead to slip for the second time in five days before eventually being forced to settle for a point in a 3-3 home draw with Fulham on Saturday.
Wenger was critical of a defence that has now conceded 12 goals in four games.
“The positive is we can score goals now. The negative is to concede three goals at home and the chances we gave away — I don’t think defensively it was a historical performance,” he said.
Wenger was particularly frustrated by the poor marking that allowed Dimitar Berbatov to head Fulham back into the match after Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podoslki had put Arsenal 2-0 up.
And the manager’s efforts to remedy the problem will be hindered by the looming international week.
“I feel where we are most guilty is on the corner,” said Wenger.
“We were 2-0 up and Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz, we know, can create chances. But nobody jumped for the ball at all, we just let them score. That doesn’t happen very often when you are at home.
“We have to just keep working on it but it will be difficult this week because everybody goes away.”
Alex Kacaniklic and Berbatov put Fulham 3-2 up before Giroud levelled with his second goal and the home side were denied victory when Mark Schwarzer saved Mikel Arteta’s injury-time penalty.
Giroud’s performance impressed Wenger, who said: “Giroud had a very good game. He had presence, wins the long ball, he is dangerous and starts to have belief in what he is doing.
“I feel there were a lot of positives in his game today.”
The result left Arsenal 11 points behind leaders Manchester United, who came from two goals down to win 3-2 at Aston Villa.
“It’s not an ideal situation, but we have shown before we can fight and we have shown today we can fight,” said Wenger.
“There are a lot of positives in our team. At the moment we don’t get the positives we want, but I still feel we have good potential in our side.”
Wenger had been angered by Roy Hodgson’s decision to include Jack Wilshere — who was suspended against Fulham — in the England squad so soon after the midfielder’s return from a 17-month injury lay-off.
And the manager questioned whether Theo Walcott would be fit to join up with the England squad for the trip to Sweden after he limped out of the Fulham clash.
Wenger said: “Walcott has a glute problem and we nearly took him off at half-time, but we left him on and it got worse.
“At the moment he is limping and I don’t know if he will be capable of joining the national team or not at this moment.
“What I can do is pray that everybody comes back in good health.”
Fulham manager Martin Jol believes Bryan Ruiz is delivering on the promise that persuaded Fulham to pay £11 million ($17.5 million, 13.8 million euros) to sign the Costa Rican from FC Twente.
And he believes Ruiz’s partnership with Berbatov is improving with every game.
Jol said: “Ruiz is more like an offensive midfielder and Berbatov is a striker who can drop in and do things.
“Today we thought it would be good for Berbatov to drop into holes and try and create openings for others. I can’t remember creating so many chances against Arsenal.
“I knew how good Ruiz was. He must confirm it and perhaps he didn’t do that from the start.
“He scored 24 goals as a midfield player. It’s not the biggest league in Holland, but he was the top scorer with Luis Suarez and has similar qualities.”