Wenger - 'Arsenal showed united response not divided response' after dramatic Wembley win
PUBLISHED: 00:17 24 April 2017 | UPDATED: 00:17 24 April 2017
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A delighted Arsene Wenger heaped praise on his Arsenal players for showing huge amounts of grit and determination at Wembley as they gave a battling performance to overcome Manchester City to reach the FA Cup Final.
His team – which received deserved and widespread criticism for showing a complete lack of heart during the appalling 3-0 defeat at Crystal Palace only two weeks ago – stepped up on the Wembley stage to come from behind to beat Pep Guardiola’s men 2-1 in extra time.
Despite falling behind to a Sergio Aguero breakaway goal on 61 minutes they showed their mental strength by responding with goals from Nacho Monreal 11 minutes later and an Alexis Sanchez strike in the 101st minute of extra time – to set up a May 27 final against Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side.
Monreal and fellow wing-back Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were pivotal in the win through their defensive discipline with non-stop running and track back – but they also combined to equalise after the former Southampton man fired in a cross for the Spainard to fire home from close range on his right foot.
Chilean Sanchez then grabbed the winner by stabbing the ball past City keeper Claudio Bravo to send fans and teammates alike into delirium to keep alive Arsenal’s hopes of finishing a frustrating season with a trophy.
Speaking afterwards Wenger – who is striving for a record seventh FA Cup win – praised his men, saying: “It was a big test for us, it was a mental test.
“Many people questioned that – can we turn up on an occasion like that? I am very proud for the players. They showed a united, determined response.
“I want them to enjoy to play together and to play for the club and reach the targets that we set for them together.
“Football is a team sport and as manager your biggest joy is when you feel you have a real team performance and that was the case. That’s why I’m happy.”
Wenger again refused to be drawn on his future – with many fans who are smarting from 13 years without a Premier League trophy, or even a genuine title tilt seeing a win against the West Londoners as the perfect way to end his Arsenal career. However he said: “I feel the club is in a very strong shape.
“We have a very strong overall situation and a very strong team. We have shown that.
“That for me is the most important thing.
“One day I will leave anyway so the most important is Arsenal will always be a great club everyone admires.
“When you see the stands and see how big this club is – when fans go home happy I feel happy.
“When we don’t win games I feel sad because I don’t give what people want.
“We’ve gone through a very difficult period, we faced some adversity that made the situation more difficult from inside as well.
“We showed a united response, not a divided response. Mentally we were in a fragile position.”