Wenger wants Arsenal win in Milan to restore belief
- Credit: Archant
Arsene Wenger wants Arsenal’s victory over AC Milan at San Siro to give belief back to his beleaguered players.
The Gunners travelled to Italy for the first leg of this Europa League last-16 tie on the back of four damaging defeats.
But Henrikh Mkhitaryan hit his first goal for the club in the 15th minute and Aaron Ramsey rounded Gianluigi Donnarumma to add a second on the stroke of half-time, as Arsenal secured a 2-0 win to take back to the Emirates Stadium next week.
Milan were poor, belying their improved form since Gennaro Gattuso took charge in November, but this was a performance Arsenal needed.
Hopes of returning to the Champions League all but rest on winning this competition, given they are 13 points adrift of the Premier League’s top four.
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So it was a timely display to keep their season alive, with manager Wenger hopeful the result can lift some of the negativity affecting his players.
Asked if the win was just what Arsenal needed, he replied: “Yes, and what we wanted especially.
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“At some stage, you need to respond and respond together with a good performance. That’s what we did.
“We have won again, but we have not qualified. The result will lift the belief in the team again. When you lose three games in six days, it’s always very difficult.
“We want to keep our focus and finish the job next week. That’s what the target is.”
Wenger has admitted in recent weeks that confidence in his squad has been low following the Carabao Cup final defeat to Manchester City.
City also saw off Arsenal in a league meeting, while Ostersund and Brighton have also recorded wins over Wenger’s side in that time.
But the 68-year-old, who has come under fresh scrutiny during the recent run, insists there has always been a desire among his players to turn things around.
“I feel (we still have it),” he added.
“That’s what we want to show. That is in front of us and that’s what we want to show, that we have the mental resources and qualities.
“I spoke about the cup final but people forget that to get to the cup final in England, you need mental resources and you need mental qualities.
“We lost against a team who are dominating English football at the moment, and it was unexplainable.
“We have to accept that, it doesn’t mean that the team has no spirit. We all have to show that until the end of the season.”
Milan entered the tie having not lost in 2018 and riding a run of six successive clean sheets.
But it was Gattuso who was left discussing the confidence in his squad as they prepare to try and turn things around in London.
“The match was very difficult, for sure,” he said.
“They had very good quality although they are going through a difficult period. We made a lot of mistakes.
“To play in Europe is different to playing in Italy. We should not lose our confidence, we should go forward.
“Never say never. We go there and we play. We showed that Milan can perform as a good team. We could have scored two goals. We will go there and we will play our match.”