Football: Wenger expects rebound

Southampton's Jose Fonte celebrating after scoring his side's third goal in the stunning 4-0 win against Arsenal on Boxing Day. Despite Arsenal failing to take top spot in the Premier League, Arsene Wenger rejected former England boss Glenn Hoddle's
Southampton's Jose Fonte celebrating after scoring his side's third goal in the stunning 4-0 win against Arsenal on Boxing Day. Despite Arsenal failing to take top spot in the Premier League, Arsene Wenger rejected former England boss Glenn Hoddle's suggestion that the pressure affected his players.PHOTO: REUTERS

He is confident 'frustrated' side will respond against Bournemouth after Saints shocker

LONDON • Arsene Wenger is confident that Arsenal will numb the pain of their Boxing Day defeat at Southampton within 48 hours.

The game at St Mary's on Saturday could have offered them a chance to go top of the Premier League but, after a poor performance, they returned to north London reeling from a shock 4-0 defeat.

Shane Long's brace complemented an exceptional Cuco Martina half-volley and Jose Fonte's header as Southampton ended a six-match winless run in some style.

There is little time for Arsenal to wallow, though, as they take on another English south-coast side, Bournemouth, today.

Wenger is confident of a positive response at the Emirates Stadium, however.

"These players have fantastic spirit and they can show that in 48 hours," he said after the defeat at St Mary's.

"We are in a job where we have to respond. We want to respond from disappointments.

"Unfortunately, there's no possible career without disappointment. Nobody, not even the best players in the world, can have that.

"It's down to how you respond and I trust my players to respond in a very strong way on Monday."

Wenger will not be taking Bournemouth lightly - Eddie Howe's Cherries started off this month with victories over Chelsea and Manchester United - and praised the promoted side before a match in which Arsenal could again reach the Premier League summit.

Table leaders Leicester City do not face third-placed Manchester City until tomorrow, but the Frenchman is not concerned about starting 2016 at the top of the league.

"I said before the game, whether we are one point behind or one point in front it is not too important," he said.

"It is the quality of our performance that counts and we were not good enough to win the game (against Southampton). We have just to look at that.

"On the other side, we can't dwell too much because in 48 hours, we play again.

"We are disappointed and frustrated, but there's only one way to respond in 48 hours."

He rejected the former England manager Glenn Hoddle's belief that the players were affected by the pressure brought by potentially going top, so too the necessity to dip into the transfer market next month.

The manager believes referee Jon Moss incorrectly allowed three goals in his side's rout.

"Southampton made the game very physical and we lost too many challenges and that explains why we lost," said Wenger.

"But we were unlucky with the decisions of the referee. The first goal was offside, the second a foul and the third was a goal kick.

"Personally I don't think the pressure got to us but there's no way to check that. I felt we were physically not at our best."

Wenger downplayed speculation linking him with a move for Basel's Mohamed Elneny and was keen to underline the quality waiting that will be at his disposal after injury.

"That's always the question you get," he said. "We have many players who are injured and will come back soon.

"Buy, buy, buy, buy is always the solution that people see. It's true that we couldn't score, but we conceded goals (against Southampton) and we have enough defenders."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 28, 2015, with the headline 'WENGER EXPECTS REBOUND'. Print Edition | Subscribe