Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger in London Colney: “I don’t blame Olivier Giroud”

Arsène Wenger in London Colney

Arsène Wenger in London Colney - Credit: Archant

It was an unusually sombre Arsene Wenger facing up to the media in London Colney today (Friday) as he was yet again asked about the humiliating mid-week defeat against AS Monaco (1-3).

But, despite frowning repeatedly and looking troubled throughout the weekly grilling by media at the club’s training grounds, he refused to blame any one player, stressing, “we lost as a team”.

And, although sympathising with fans’ anger, Wenger defended the club, saying the defeat had also hurt him.

In team news ahead of this Sunday’s Premier League clash against Everton, Wenger said that Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini have returned to ‘normal’ training today and tomorrow.

Harpenden’s Jack Wilshere has had surgery to take two small pins out of his ankle, because they were irritating him, but it was a very minor procedure and he will be out for just a few days.

However, Wenger disagreed that the further surgery was a setback for the midfielder, explaining it had been planned for some time, “at the end of the season, but because he had an irritation with it we decided to do it now.”

In regards to Wilshere’s availability, Wenger said that next weekend would be too soon, but “it’s days not weeks”.

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Abou Diaby is progressing well in training, “going step-by-step. He has not played yet, and is not in a position to play yet.”

Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Debuchy are still a few weeks away.

When one reporter asked for a more “relaxed” response to Wednesday night’s defeat, Wenger said: “I have said what I had to say after the game. We are in a strong run in the championship, in the Premiership, and it is to respond to that disappointment in a strong way on Sunday afternoon. That is all we can do.”

Wenger expects a strong response from his players, because it is a different competition and “we are back in the top three in the Premier League and we have an opportunity to stabilise this position. And we want to take it.”

Reminded that it had been a “bad week all round for English clubs”, Wenger replied: “It looks a terrible week for English clubs in Europe. I don’t have any rational explanation for that. It’s just a shock that it’s us.”

Asked about the effort needed to do well in the Champions League, but with Arsenal not appearing to progress, he said: “We have won some important games. What is frustrating is that we go out in the last 16 in the last four years.”

When the Gunners’ boss was asked about Gabriel Paulista playing against Everton, after comments about defence on Wednesday, Wenger replied: “I haven’t made any decision yet for Sunday’s game, we have to rotate a little bit … and we need some changes.”

And a question about whether anger spilled over in the dressing room after Wednesday’s defeat - as he was reportedly the angriest he had ever been after a game - Wenger said: “I don’t want to comment on the reports nor what happens in the dressing room.”

Asked about Olivier Giroud following the game, Wenger said: “He is like everybody else, he is disappointed. There is no one to blame individually. It is not because who is a striker who missed a chance. On the night, everything went against us, and the fact you miss some chances was only one of the characteristics of the night.”

But has Giroud taken recent criticism to heart? Wenger replied he hoped it would not affect him long-term as he is a “strong character”.

He added: “Personally, I don’t blame him at all. We lost as a team, we fight for each other as a team and he worked hard for the team on the night and he didn’t miss the chances on purpose.”

A reporter who asked why it seemed that every defeat for Arsenal seemed like a crisis and every victory a ‘new dawn’, Wenger said: “We have to live with that. What is important is to give a strong response. When you are a big club, you interest many people, and of course, when you come out from a disappointing game, you don’t expect people to applaud; it is absolutely normal we get criticised.

“What is hurting is the defeat – more than the criticism. I do not say I’m immune to it, but I love to win, and when I don’t win, I’m hurt of course.”

And in regards to the fans’ pain, he said: “You are not a fan for one game. You are a fan for the club and no matter how good your team is, you play 55 games a year, and there are moments you are disappointed.

“But, we are third in the league, and … we want to finish in a strong way.

“We are still in the Champions League. Don’t rule us out too quickly.”

• Arsenal V Everton, Emirates Stadium, this Sunday (1) 2.05pm