Football

'We wouldn't have scored in two hours'

Wenger defends team selection, blames exit on players' lethargy

QUARTER-FINAL
ARSENAL SOUTHAMPTON
0 2
  (Jordy Clasie 13, Ryan Bertrand 38)

There's nothing wrong with my team selection.

It was the players' lack of urgency early in the match that proved costly.

Arsene Wenger defended his decision to make 10 changes after Arsenal were defeated 2-0 by Southampton in the League Cup quarter-finals yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Midfielder Mohamed Elneny was the only survivor from last Sunday's Premier League win over Bournemouth and, even with Granit Xhaka and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain coming off the bench, Wenger's men never looked close to getting on the scoresheet.

The defeat is Arsenal's first in 19 games in all competitions, but Wenger (photo) said that the only thing he would change is the result of the match.

He said: "I regret that we lost the game. We had played well until now.

"If you look at the players who played well tonight, some of those who did not play tonight were on the edge.

"In midfield, we had (Francis) Coquelin, (Aaron) Ramsey, Elneny, (Granit) Xhaka, (Lucas)Perez... (Olivier) Giroud was injured. We had (Alex) Iwobi, one of the regular players in the first team.

"The problem wasn't there. We had players who are used to top-level competition. But we didn't have the right urgency."

Dutch midfielder Jordy Clasie's blistering drive put Southampton ahead in the 13th minute before England defender Ryan Bertrand added a second seven minutes before half-time, gathering Sofiane Boufal's pass and rifling a shot into the bottom corner.

Wenger added: "I'm disappointed. We had a disappointing performance, particularly in the first half.

"I think we were not good enough defensively and gave cheap goals away in the first half.

"It was better in the second, but it was one of those nights where you look like you could play two hours without scoring a goal.

"We didn't have enough urgency in the first half and were weak in some departments.

"We paid for that. We were not incisive enough in the first half especially.

"They played deeper in the second half and were sharper than us and fitter.

"If you give someone a handicap of two goals, against a Premier League side, it's difficult."

Southampton are through to their first League Cup semi-final since 1987, when they were beaten over two legs by Liverpool, the same team they will face in this year's semi-finals.

Saints manager Claude Puel was happy with how his team performed.

"We were clinical in the first half, with two goals from two chances. I like this," he said.

"In the second half, we had many chances to score another goal and make the game safe against a good team.

"It was a fantastic game to achieve that result - good solidarity, good attitude. I enjoyed what my players did." - PA SPORT.

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