LONDON: Arsene Wenger praised Arsenal’s grit and determination as they moved two points clear at the top of the Premier League with a tense 1-0 win over Newcastle United.
After watching Laurent Koscielny’s 72nd-minute strike secure three points at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday (Sunday in Manila), Wenger said winning ugly will help his players believe they can do so again if they are unable to overwhelm an opponent with their attacking play.
“It was a difficult game against a good Newcastle side,” the Gunners boss said. “Our legs were a bit heavy and we were tested against a team with a lot of good technical quality.
“Our fluency and our movement were not there. From then on it was: Let’s stick together and try to win the game however we can.
“The mental aspect of our team was tested and our defensive solidity more than our ability going forward.
“If you’re in Newcastle’s place you’re sorry for them because they played very well. But I’m in the game long enough that when you’re capable of winning and you don’t play well, that shows the mental aspect of your team.
“Not to drop points when you play like we did is very important. I think it helps the team as well because we go through moments in the season when we will not play well and the memory of having done that before and still having won the game helps you to hang on sometimes.”
A valuable element of Arsenal’s resilience was the reliability of goalkeeper Petr Cech, who made two excellent saves from Georginio Wijnaldum either side of half-time.
“He made two big saves, one in the first half and one at the beginning of the second and on top of that he stays calm, never panics and today we needed that,” Wenger said.
As he surveyed a haul of nine points from a Christmas program of matches against Manchester City, Southampton, Bournemouth and now Newcastle, Wenger agreed that his team had not been consistent but pronounced himself satisfied.