Football

Wenger expects Arsenal revival over Christmas

Gunners boss upbeat after 1-0 win over Newcastle

Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal's 1-0 victory over Newcastle last Saturday will breed the confidence they need to cope with a hectic Christmas schedule.

After seeing his side end a three-match winless run, thanks to Mesut Oezil's spectacular first-half goal at the Emirates Stadium, Gunners boss Wenger has no worries about a potential lack of stamina.

"You could see that we had played three games in six days and the third game is a bit more difficult physically. Nobody else had to play Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday, but we had plenty of chances to score more goals," Wenger said.

"If you look historically, it happens every year that finishing is a bit cyclic.

"Sometimes, you will score three or four, converting every chance, and sometimes you will have six or seven chances and score only one.

"People are not happy with it, but it's part of the game and you need to live with it."

The Gunners host Liverpool on Saturday morning (Singapore time), before travelling to Crystal Palace (Dec 28) and West Bromwich Albion (Dec 31).

Oezil's current form had Wenger purring in admiration and more desperate than ever to ensure that the Germany international does not leave the club next month or when his contract expires at the end of the season.

"It was a superb finish. He can deliver that. It's important for him that he takes the risk to do what he did," Wenger said.

"Usually, he is a guy who, 99 per cent of the time in this position, controls the ball and gives it to somebody else.

"So I'm pleased he took the gamble to finish and I'm happy as well that he scored a very important goal.

"I am confident that he will stay here, but what does that mean? I don't know."

WENGER OFFERS SUPPORT

With Newcastle slipping into the bottom three for the first time this season, manager Rafael Benitez will no doubt be grateful for Wenger's support.

The Frenchman and Spaniard exchanged a warm greeting pitch-side before kick-off and that mutual respect was echoed afterwards.

Wenger said of his Newcastle counterpart: "He is doing a good job because Newcastle are not one of the teams who invested hugely to compete at the top when they came up.

"His team, overall, look organised, they look mobile and they look to have a good spirit.

"The job of a manager is to take the best from the potential of his team and I believe Benitez does that very well."

As it is unlikely the mooted takeover of Newcastle can be sanctioned and completed before the transfer window closes at the end of next month, Benitez is aware he faces a tough task to keep the club from dropping back into the Championship.

First, he must halt a run of results that has reaped just a solitary point from the last nine games.

"Obviously, the last results haven't given us confidence, but I've always said that coming back from the Championship, this team would be in the bottom half of the table," Benitez said.

"We didn't win games against teams around us in the table. Now we have to put everything right, playing better if we can, and, hopefully, bring in one or two additions in January to give a lift to everyone.

"The main thing is to stay calm, do our jobs properly and give ourselves the chance to move up the table if the team continue to work like they did today." - AFP

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