MANAGERS' DECISIONS UNDER MICROSCOPE

Wenger forced to defend his choice of Ospina in goal after defeat by Olympiakos

Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina looking dejected after scoring an own goal to give Olympiakos a 2-1 lead. After two losses, the Gunners have an uphill task to make the round of 16.
Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina looking dejected after scoring an own goal to give Olympiakos a 2-1 lead. After two losses, the Gunners have an uphill task to make the round of 16.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

LONDON • Arsene Wenger angrily defended his decision to start David Ospina ahead of Petr Cech in Arsenal's 3-2 Champions League defeat at home by Olympiakos, saying it would be a "farce" to blame the goalkeeper despite his howler.

The loss leaves the Gunners without a win from their first two games in Europe's elite club competition, and on the brink of failing to get beyond the group stage for the first time in 15 years.

Ospina dropped a corner into his own net to hand the Greek champions a 2-1 lead and, in general, failed to instil confidence in his backline.

Wenger signed Czech Cech from Chelsea for £10 million (S$21.6 million) in the summer and, at the time, it was expected that he would play his top signing in the Champions League.

The manager, though, started Ospina in the opening Group F loss at Dinamo Zagreb and he retained faith in the Colombian for a game Arsenal could not afford to lose. The 'keeper was one of five changes Wenger made from the side that beat Leicester on the weekend.

"I do not have to sit here and give you any explanation about every decision I make," Wenger said. "Cech had a slight (fitness) alert before the game at Leicester (on Saturday). I didn't want to take a gamble but it's not because of that we lost the game. It's a farce (to suggest that).

"No 'keeper is mistake-free. It could have happened to Petr Cech as well. I make the selections for the team and I am responsible for them. And I know many things that you don't know."

Wenger blamed the lack of "quality in our defensive concentration" for the defeat while he lamented bad luck, too.

Olympiakos, he noted, had mustered only four shots on target but departed with three goals - as many as they had managed on English soil in the previous 50 years.

Wenger also pointed to the minute of madness that led his team conceding the winner to Alfred Finnbogason only 59 seconds after Alexis Sanchez headed in the equaliser.

"We got back into the game well but we gave them straight away the 3-2 lead and that was the turning point," said the Frenchman, whose side saw 65 per cent of the ball.

While Wenger cut a frustrated figure, Olympiakos manager Marco Silva was revelling in his club's first win in England after 12 consecutive defeats. "It's something historic for us," he said. "Any team that wins here has to know how to suffer and put up with the pressure. That is one of the key features."

Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown called the result the club's worst in Europe.

Wenger, however, has backed his side to bounce back and make the last 16 again - just as his side have done every year since 2000.

"It leaves us in a bad position," he said. "But we are still in it."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2015, with the headline 'MANAGERS' DECISIONS UNDER MICROSCOPE'. Print Edition | Subscribe