Feb 14, 2014

    Nervous Arsenal dodge United defeat


    ARSENE Wenger has acknowledged that last weekend's 5-1 thrashing by Liverpool forced his Arsenal side to retreat into their shells to avoid defeat at all cost against Manchester United in the English Premier League on Wednesday.

    The Londoners would have gone top with a win against the champions, but few chances were created in the drab 0-0 draw at the Emirates.

    "Our defensive focus was extreme today because we conceded so many goals on Saturday. It was important not to lose tonight," manager Wenger told reporters.

    "United restricted us to very few chances, but our team was highly focused on not conceding tonight and maybe that restricted our game going forward.

    "We were hit by the five goals we conceded on Saturday and you could feel that a little bit tonight. We were nervous where we are usually very dangerous breaking through the middle with speedy passing.

    "We lost two points tonight, but the point keeps us in the race."

    Arsenal are second, one point behind Chelsea, while United are seventh, 15 points off the pace.

    Wenger's side have taken just five points in six games against Chelsea, Manchester City (in third place), Liverpool (fourth) and United.

    Arsenal let in four goals in the opening 20 minutes against Liverpool and Mikel Arteta's mistake after 90 seconds almost led to another early setback.

    Wojciech Szczesny, however, saved the home side from another terrible start by guessing the right way as Robin van Persie shot from close range with his favoured left foot.

    Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud, who caused United captain Nemanja Vidic problems in the air all evening, missed a clear header from 8m following a Santi Cazorla corner soon after.

    Good chances, though, were few and far between in a dislocated and often frantic first half between two sides searching for their best form.

    United manager David Moyes said: "We defended well throughout the game.

    "I'd have liked to have played better going forward. I thought we did a lot of good things."

    He refused to accept that United are out of the running for the Champions League places, despite qualification rivals Liverpool and Tottenham both winning on the night.

    United have only 12 games in which to reverse the situation if they are to avoid missing out on a place in Europe's premier club tournament for the first time since 1995, but Moyes refused to give up the fight.

    "We will try and win the next game and try and pick it up. I believe the desire is still there, they are a great group of players," said the Scot. "If there's one team that has been great at winning games in the second half of the season, it's Manchester United."

    Wenger also noted that United's performance proved that they remain one of the country's leading sides.

    He said: "United is a good team that can play against anybody in our league.

    "At the moment, they're not where they can be, but you cannot say with the players they have on the pitch that they are not quality."

    When pushed on United's chances of finishing in the top four, however, the Frenchman would only say that it was "not mathematically impossible".