Football: Arsenal face huge scrap to make top 4

(Top) Arsenal forward Theo Walcott celebrating following team-mate Shkodran Mustafi's 53rd-minute header and equaliser past City goalkeeper Willy Caballero. (Above) Fans making their point as the protests against Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger get mor
Arsenal forward Theo Walcott celebrating following team-mate Shkodran Mustafi's 53rd-minute header and equaliser past City goalkeeper Willy Caballero.PHOTOS: REUTERS
(Top) Arsenal forward Theo Walcott celebrating following team-mate Shkodran Mustafi's 53rd-minute header and equaliser past City goalkeeper Willy Caballero. (Above) Fans making their point as the protests against Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger get mor
Fans making their point as the protests against Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger get more vociferous. Wenger has yet to announce if he's staying or leaving the Emirates, with his contract up in the summer.PHOTOS: REUTERS

Wenger hopeful that salvaging a draw against City is indication of his side's mental strength

LONDON • Arsene Wenger watched his Arsenal team squeeze to a nervy 2-2 draw with Manchester City on Sunday and hoped that it could serve as a springboard to greater stability and a successful push for a top-four Premier League finish.

The Gunners had entered on a run of four defeats in five Premier League games - the worst sequence of Wenger's 21-year career - and to the now familiar backdrop of angst and uncertainty over his future beyond the end of the season.

They trailed twice, only to fight back on both occasions, and they got the benefit of referee Andre Marriner's decision in stoppage time to overlook an apparent handball inside the penalty area by Nacho Monreal.

Pep Guardiola was incensed and the City manager confronted Marriner on the field after the full-time whistle.

Arsenal emerged with a point and although it was not the best result in mathematical terms, Wenger suggested it could have galvanising potential.

"It was a mental test and you could see that the team was touched on the confidence front," he said.

"We started with a high level of anxiety and the fluency in our game suffered. But we have showed great mental resources.

"We were twice down and the second (goal) came at the worst moment in a football game - just before half-time.

"On top of that, we lost (Laurent) Koscielny to an Achilles injury at half-time. We came back in the second half and I would say it will help us to rebuild confidence. Hopefully, the confidence is there again and it will help us to restart."

City went ahead through Leroy Sane and then Sergio Aguero at the Emirates Stadium, but Arsenal responded each time via goals from Theo Walcott and Shkodran Mustafi.

Wenger said he did not have a view of the Monreal flashpoint but Guardiola revealed that the Arsenal left-back had admitted his guilt on the field.

Guardiola also pointed out that Marriner had denied his team a penalty in the 2-2 home draw with Tottenham Hotspur in January, when Kyle Walker pushed Raheem Sterling.

"Monreal said he touched the ball with his hand," Guardiola said. "But he said to me in England, in that kind of situation, there are no whistles."

Guardiola was unhappy at the overall performance of his team, with their passing below par in the first half after a fast start and, once again, missing clear chances.

"After the first goal, we forgot a little bit to play. I like it when my teams play with the ball. Of course, they have to run but I like it when they have the personality to play. In some moments, we didn't do that," he said. The draw leaves Arsenal in danger of missing out on the Champions League for the first time in Wenger's tenure.

They trail City, in fourth place, by seven points with a game in hand.

"Psychologically it was important not to lose," Wenger said. "Mathematically, for both teams, it's not the best. How many do we need to be in the top four? I don't know. We are in a tough battle."

City are 11 points behind Chelsea, the league leaders, who they play tomorrow.

THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2017, with the headline 'Arsenal face huge scrap to make top 4'. Print Edition | Subscribe