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Arsenal boss Wenger getting used to comebacks

Arsenal head coach Arsene Wenger. Credit: PA

Arsene Wenger acknowledges comebacks and late goals have almost become an Arsenal speciality this season.

The Gunners came from behind and snatched a last-gasp 2-1 victory in their FA Cup third-round tie at Championship side Preston on Saturday.

That came after they beat West Brom with a late winner and claimed a dramatic last-minute draw at Bournemouth over the Christmas period. There were also late shows against Southampton, Burnley, Sunderland and Manchester United earlier in the campaign.

Wenger said: "I think since the start of the season we have had many, many, many comebacks and many goals in the final minutes.

"But I would first like to congratulate Preston for the quality of their game, especially in the first half where we were outpaced and they played with desire, enthusiasm and quality and they gave us many problems - full commitment for 90 minutes.

"It was a great cup tie and we needed to dig deep to win the game."


Wenger backs Alexis over behaviour at Bournemouth

Wenger has no issue with Alexis venting his frustration. Credit: AP

Arsene Wenger has responded to reports in Thursday morning's national press that star striker Alexis Sanchez was sat in silence after the draw with Bournemouth, refusing to join in the team's celebrations at coming back to take a point.

Sanchez had hurled his gloves to the floor in frustration at the end of the game at the Vitality Stadium and it was reported that he remained deeply unhappy in the dressing room.

But Wenger had no problem at all with the Chilean's behaviour.

He said:

What is surprising? We want to win the games, if you don't you're not happy. That is normal.

Without passion you do not come back when you are at 70 minutes and 3-0 down. It is exceptional and you need a special response.

We are all frustrated. Of course he (Sanchez) is fine.

– Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Wenger blames Arsenal performance on scheduling

Arsene Wenger blamed Premier League scheduling for Arsenal's 3-3 draw at Bournemouth - but admitted he must "shut up and cope with it".

Arsenal escaped with a point after falling 3-0 down to Bournemouth. Credit: PA

Gunners boss Wenger lamented Arsenal facing the Cherries at Dean Court with one day's less rest than Eddie Howe's men, insisting two games in 48 hours accounted for a lacklustre opening 60 minutes.

Bournemouth powered into a 3-0 lead thanks to goals from Charlie Daniels, Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser, only to slip off the pace with captain Simon Francis sent off.

Alexis Sanchez, Lucas Perez and Olivier Giroud snatched a last-gasp draw for the Emirates Stadium men, with Wenger again hitting out at the Premier League scheduling.

Wenger said:

We had three or four players we had to play tonight that we had to wait until the warm-up to see if they could play.

Hector Bellerin had a knock so he was uncertain to play, and that's the problem with only 48 hours (between games); you have to play some players again.

Laurent Koscielny too, and we had Gabriel (Paulista) that we didn't start in the end. And then I didn't start Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain because I didn't take a gamble with him, because I didn't know who we'd have to take off.

This complicates the job a lot, but we have to shut up and cope with it.

– Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Arsenal manager sceptical over World Cup proposals

Wenger is not convinced the changes are needed. Credit: Reuters

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is "sceptical" about plans to extend the World Cup to a 48-team tournament.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino is pushing for an expanded competition from the 2026 World Cup onwards, with 32 nations competing at the finals under the current set-up.

Infantino favours a structure which would see 16 groups of three teams, with the top two then advancing into the last 32 knockout system.

A decision on the potential World Cup reforms will be made in January but Wenger has already suggested the changes may not improve the competition and could be made for the wrong reasons.

He said on Thursday:

My thoughts on that are is it guided for popular reasons? Or is that guided to improve the level of football? I'm a bit sceptical. If somebody can convince me that it will make football better and that we can live with the time it will take to complete the World Cup, I am ready to listen.

At the moment, I think I am not convinced. We have moved to 24 teams in Europe (for the European Championships), that's basically 50 per cent of the teams we have in Europe.

I can't see that being a huge improvement on the quality of the game. But 48 teams... we have about 300 teams in the world, the percentage looks that it could be accepted.

– Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger


Wenger expecting tough Champions League draw

Wenger's side finished top of the group. Credit: PA

Arsene Wenger is not expecting an easy draw in the last 16 of the Champions League despite seeing his Arsenal side top Group A as Lucas Perez's hat-trick sealed a comfortable 4-1 victory in Basle.

Currently Benfica, Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen are the three definite sides than can be paired with Arsenal in Monday's draw in Nyon as they have progressed as runners-up.

But one of either Borussia Dortmund or Real Madrid will also be added to the equation after Wednesday's matches - as will Juventus or Sevilla, who are still fighting for top spot in Group H.

Wenger's side have fallen at the round of 16 stage in the last six seasons but, despite progressing as the best in Group A, he is taking nothing for granted this year either.

"I don't even know who we can get," he said after the win.

"But we can still have a difficult draw, as I said last night. Any way, it will be difficult but with less guilt when you finish first.

"You feel you've done the job and can play the second leg at home. So we have achieved that. But the draw is not much different (in terms of the potential opponent), certainly at the moment.

"I cannot complain tonight. I've had bad nights in football and tonight was a good night. Overall we came here wanting to do the job, wanting to play well.

"On top of that we were lucky with the result with Paris St Germain, so it was a positive night."

Arsenal boss believes Xhaka needs more time to adjust

Arsene Wenger admits Granit Xhaka is still adapting to life in the Premier League as his third most expensive signing of all time remains a peripheral figure at Arsenal.

Xhaka has struggled to make Arsenal's starting XI in recent weeks. Credit: PA

Only Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez sit above the Switzerland international as the club's largest transfer spends, but it is almost impossible to imagine that pair being on the fringes of the starting line-up.

Xhaka's arrival was one of the catalysts for Jack Wilshere to request a loan move to play more football and he ended up making a temporary switch to Bournemouth.

And it is Eddie Howe's Cherries who visit the Emirates Stadium on Sunday with Wilshere ineligible against his parent club.

But it is just as likely that Xhaka will find himself a mere spectator as Wenger looks for the right blend in midfield, with Francis Coquelin currently the only player who seems to be a near-permanent fixture in that position for the Gunners.

When asked about Xhaka's lack of football, Wenger said:

He needs to adapt, then we need to find the balance. We have the positional play, he plays in a deeper lying midfield position, he passes through the lines. He needs to adapt to the way we play and the tactical pace of the English game. I am confident he will do very well.

If you look at Thierry Henry at the start when he came here, he was not playing. He did not play until November, he was as well 23 years old. We are in November now.

– Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
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