English Premiership

Wenger defiant after draw

2010-12-30 06:58
Arsene Wenger (AP)
Wigan - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger defended his selection policy after his side conceded a late goal in a 2-2 draw against 10-men Wigan that could prove costly in the race for the Premier League title.

An early Ben Watson penalty had given Wigan the lead before Andrey Arshavin and Nicklas Bendtner both scored just before half-time to give visitors Arsenal the advantage at the DW Stadium here on Wednesday.

However, just three minutes after Charles N'Zogbia's sending off for a ridiculous headbutt on Arsenal's Jack Wilshere, Sebastien Squillaci headed into his own goal following pressure at a corner.

Wenger is likely to come under fire from Gunners fans who saw him make eight changes from the side that beat champions Chelsea 3-1 on Monday.

Only Lukasz Fabianski, Bacary Sagna and Laurent Koscielny survived from that encounter, with Wenger clearly having one eye on the congested fixture list over the festive period and into 2011.

"There is no rule," he said after a draw that left Arsenal in third spot, two points behind leaders Manchester United and second-placed Manchester City.

"We had the disadvantage that Wigan played three days ago and we played 48 hours ago. I had to change because we play again on Saturday and again next Wednesday and then next Saturday and we cannot always play with the same team."

Despite all those changes, Arsenal should have had the strength in depth to beat a Wigan side currently haunted by relegation.

But although they came from behind to lead 2-1, Arsenal could never quite shake Wigan off and the home team thoroughly deserved the point that lifted them out of the bottom three.

"Yes (I'm disappointed) because we were 2-1 up and played against 10 men and dropped two points," Wenger said.

"It was a difficult game with a high level of commitment from Wigan and they caught us a bit at the start. In the second half we didn't do enough and conceded two goals at setpieces and credit to them because they didn't give up," the Frenchman added.

Wenger's opposite number Roberto Martinez echoed those sentiments and was thrilled with his side's tenacity.

Wigan teams of old would have capitulated -- particularly after Arsenal scored twice in just five minutes just before the break - and if anything they looked a more compact unit after N'Zogbia was dismissed with 12 minutes left.

"I'm extra pleased because obviously you need a real reaction with character and passion and with understanding of what the game needs and we showed that in the second half," Martinez said.

Martinez defended Wenger's selection policy and had no hesitation in condemning N'Zogbia for an act of stupidity that marred an otherwise fine performance by the Frenchman.

"I think they were all full internationals with good experience," Martinez said of the Arsenal side.

"I would have preferred to have played against the team that played against Chelsea because to recover in 48 hours is impossible, so when we saw those fresh legs it was a worry more than anything."

As for N'Zogbia's headbutt, he added: "I didn't see it live but I saw it on the TV and there are no excuses; that's unacceptable.

"He started the game really well and got the penalty and he gets kicked in every game and there are a lot of emotions but you cannot accept that sort of reaction," the Spaniard insisted.

"He let his side down but football is a team game and the players got him out of jail."

Read more on:    epl  |  nicklas bendtner  |  arsene wenger  |  arsenal


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