Football

Wenger: We struggled with Everton’s physicality

Arsenal boss believes his team were unlucky to lose

Arsenal's 14-match unbeaten Premier League run might have convinced manager Arsene Wenger that his team had developed the resolve needed to sustain a title challenge but there was little sign of that in yesterday morning's (Singapore time) 2-1 defeat at Everton.

Wenger said his side had struggled to deal with Everton's physical approach as the Merseysiders fought back to win 2-1 thanks to Ashley Williams' late header at Goodison Park.

It had all been going smoothly for Arsenal when the in-form Alexis Sanchez put them ahead with his 12th league goal of the season from a deflected free-kick after 20 minutes.

But Everton upped the intensity levels and clawed their way back into the game through Seamus Coleman's header just before the break, before Williams won it in the 86th minute.

"We faced many physical challenges and that disturbed our game but we were a bit unlucky to lose," Wenger told BT Sport in a familiar refrain for Arsenal fans who have become used to seeing successive title challenges fall away.

"They (Everton) were a bit scared at first but (then) they got their confidence. We did fight, I cannot fault that... Maybe we made it easy for them when they became more physical...

"We created chances but not too many were clear-cut. We battled hard."

Former Liverpool and England striker Michael Owen, however, disputed Wenger's charge that his players fought.

Speaking on BT Sport, he said: "'When he says they 'fought really hard', they fought really hard from an Arsenal point of view.

"That's a passing type of fighting hard, running around a bit. But when you are talking about physically fighting, they are just not designed for that.

"They need to pass a team off the park and when any team gets really physical against them, they find it harder."

Wenger admitted that the Toffees were not physically tough but solid at the back, adding: "They defended well even when we controlled the game."

Pundit Robbie Savage, too, lauded Everton's defending, particularly in the latter stages.

He tweeted: "Best last three minutes I've seen. Brilliant brilliant defending at the end, passion, desire!"

Famed former Blackburn Rovers strikeforce Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, too, praised Everton.

Shearer tweeted: "Great result for Everton who deserved it. Arsenal were poor tonight and looked vulnerable at the back without (Shkodran) Mustafi."

ARSENAL POOR

Sutton added, also on Twitter: "Everton were brilliant tonight! Arsenal were poor by their standards."

The defeat was Arsenal's first in the league since their opening-day loss at home to Liverpool, and it left them three points adrift of pacesetters Chelsea, who play bottom club Sunderland this morning.

But Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech is just focused on the "six-pointer" against Manchester City on Sunday.

He said: "Although Everton were not dangerous for most of the game, they found two goals and in the end you go home with a defeat...

"Sometimes I think it is best if after a big game you play another big game. It's a kind of a six-pointer - it's probably a perfect game for us." - WIRE SERVICES

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