Football: Wenger hails Arsenal's spirit

Arsenal striker Alexis Sanchez scores the Gunners' first goal past Bournemouth goalkeeper Artur Boruc with a stooping header. The Chilean sparked Arsenal's comeback from 3-0 down to earn a draw.
Arsenal striker Alexis Sanchez scores the Gunners' first goal past Bournemouth goalkeeper Artur Boruc with a stooping header. The Chilean sparked Arsenal's comeback from 3-0 down to earn a draw.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Frenchman proud of team's mental strength after snatching point with three late goals

LONDON • Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger praised his side's resilience but was left to rue their failure to turn a 3-0 deficit into a victory at Bournemouth in the Premier League on Tuesday.

The Gunners left the south coast with a 3-3 draw after Alexis Sanchez, Lucas Perez and Olivier Giroud scored late goals to wipe out what had been a woeful first hour in which the tenacious hosts scored three times.

Yet, when Giroud equalised in the 92nd minute, Arsenal looked the more likely side to snatch all three points.

"It was a physical test and a mental test for us. A physical test because we had problems in coping with the pace of Bournemouth," Wenger told reporters.

"But we succeeded because we have a great resilience in the team and great mental strength and that came out. In the end, you are even frustrated not to win the game.

"You have mixed feelings after a game like that because you wanted three points and you got only one. But when you are 3-0 down after 70 minutes, you take a point as well."

Bournemouth played with two up, had their tails up and after 21 minutes were two goals up.

They started brightly, showing no fear, scoring twice in four minutes through Charlie Daniels and Callum Wilson, leaving Arsenal in disarray and Aaron Ramsey and Sanchez arguing with each other.

FAIR FOOTBALL AFFAIR

I'm ready to play again tomorrow as long as I play against an opponent who played today as well. That is what I call fair.

ARSENE WENGER, Arsenal manager, suggesting Bournemouth had the upper hand as they had an extra day's rest.

Arsenal simply could not live with Bournemouth's pressure and counter-attacking in the early stages and that set the tone for the first half.

Eddie Howe's side were in total control. Arsenal were in near chaos. Those bookmakers taking wagers on Howe being Wenger's successor must have been tempted to cut the odds further.

Howe's players were well organised, working hard to his commands, and their hunger was etched in every face, every exhortation, every run.

Such was Arsenal's disgust at that 45 minutes that even the club's usually cautious Twitter feed posted: "That first half was simply not good enough - now we need a big performance to put it right."

Wenger blamed his team's sluggish start on an extra 24 hours preparation for Bournemouth, who played on Saturday, as opposed to Arsenal, who beat Crystal Palace 2-0 only 48 hours prior to this game.

And he suggested that Hector Bellerin, Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were not fully fit to play.

"Congratulations to them but, as well, it is too uneven to have only two days to play against a team who had over three days' rest," Wenger said.

"I'm ready to play again tomorrow as long as I play against an opponent who played today as well.

"That is what I call fair. We want to play against a team with the same time of rest and preparation as us."

The second half was indeed much better for the Gunners even though they conceded yet another goal through Ryan Fraser in the 58th minute, before they hit back with three in the last 20 minutes.

Bournemouth played the last eight minutes of normal time and six minutes of stoppage time with 10 men after Simon Francis was sent off.

Howe was naturally disappointed that Bournemouth could not get more than a point after such an impressive first half against their illustrious opponents.

"The key moment was that first goal for them, the game changed after that," he said.

"It should have been safe at 3-0. But I think we were harshly treated with the red card."

THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2017, with the headline 'Wenger hails Arsenal's spirit'. Print Edition | Subscribe