Wenger: We have to take setback on the chin
Manager Arsene Wenger maintains Arsenal again have little option but to regroup and lift themselves once more after a bizarre last-minute own goal from Mathieu Flamini gifted Swansea a 2-2 draw at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners boss had called for a response to the “accident” of his side’s 6-0 thrashing at Stamford Bridge which ruined his 1,000th match in charge.
Having trailed to an 11th-minute header from Wilfried Bony, it was not until after the introduction of substitute Lukas Podolski just before the hour that Arsenal finally sparked into life. Two goals in the space of 60 seconds midway through the second period, from Podolski and Oliver Giroud, looked to have won the match.
However, Garry Monk’s side – fighting against being dragged into the relegation battle – had defended resolutely and were themselves dangerous on the counter-attack, eventually forcing a late equaliser when the ball broke to Leon Britton at the edge of the Arsenal penalty area.
As the midfielder pressed forwards, riding a couple of challenges, he stabbed the ball goalwards, which was partially blocked by Per Mertesacker, ricocheted off goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and back onto Flamini before rolling into the net.
With Manchester City, who romped to a 3-0 win at Old Trafford, the next visitors on Saturday afternoon, Wenger knows his men must quickly pick themselves up as they look to now also fend off the challenge of Everton to their place in the top four.
“The result is very disappointing, but the spirit we put in and the effort we put in was great and we have to take it on the chin,” said Wenger, who confirmed defender Laurent Koscielny would be out “for a while” with a calf problem, while midfield trio Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil are not yet ready to a return.
“I think at the moment it (the title) is not the biggest worry we have. We have to be realistic a little bit and try to come back a bit in the next game.
“We have to look behind us and of course try to look in front of us.
“It will be open until the end, but you can still have surprises as well.
“Man City had a good result, they look a bit unstoppable, they are favourites as they have two games in hand, them and Chelsea are favourites now for the title.
“We have not too much room to come back into it, but we have to get some players back. It is difficult to fight with half the team out.”
Wenger expects Wales midfielder Ramsey to be back from the thigh injury which has kept him sidelined since Boxing Day in “two weeks”.
“He had little setbacks, little scar tissues that sometimes bleed a bit and you have to slow down a bit,” Wenger said. “When a guy has a tendon in a very sensitive place, you always have to push, but not too far.”
Swansea head coach Monk was, meanwhile, perplexed by what he felt was an early final whistle from referee Lee Probert, blown up when Jonathan de Guzman looked to be breaking clear on goal.
“We are clean through on goal and 99 per cent a goalscoring opportunity is going to come, he would have been clean through on goal, and they blow up 30 seconds short,” he said.
“I told the referee it was a very poor decision, I don’t understand it, and it is very strange.
“When they put the clock up, it is minimum of that, and we are 30 seconds short, I just don’t get it.
“I have never had it like that in any game I have ever played in.”
Monk added: “I am happy because before the game if you had offered me a point I would have taken it, but with the way the match panned out, especially that last bit through on goal, I am probably frustrated we did not get to see the outcome of it.”