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Wenger proud as gloom lifts over Arsenal

By Agence France-Presse in London | China Daily | Updated: 2013-02-25 05:57

 Wenger proud as gloom lifts over Arsenal

Arsenal's Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla (right) celebrates scoring his second goal during the match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium in London on Saturday. Arsenal won 2-1. Glyn Kirk / Agence France-Presse

Arsene Wenger insisted he was proud of his Arsenal players after Santi Cazorla lifted the gloom around the Emirates Stadium with a crucial double in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa.

Wenger had faced renewed calls for his resignation after last weekend's embarrassing FA Cup exit against second-tier Blackburn and the midweek Champions League defeat against Bayern Munich only added to the impression of a club spiralling out of control.

In the circumstances anything but a victory against struggling Villa on Saturday would have given Wenger's critics more ammunition to attack the Frenchman, so there was a sense of relief when Cazorla bagged the winner with five minutes remaining.

Until then, Arsenal had labored to kill off third bottom Villa, which recovered from Cazorla's first-half opener to equalize through Andreas Weimann after the break.

Cazorla's efforts moved Arsenal within one point of fourth placed Tottenham and Wenger admitted he was impressed with the way the under-fire Gunners responded to their difficult situation.

"I'm proud of the attitude of the team," Wenger said. "We went through some difficult days and responded in a united way."

When Wenger gave a tetchy news conference before the Bayern match it seemed the pressure was starting to take its toll.

But he refused to say whether the past week had been the worst of his 17-year tenure, claiming he had been in the job too long to be affected by criticism.

"I don't know if it was the worst but it was difficult. The most difficult was not the criticism but the fact we lost two games," Wenger said.

"I'm here to win games. But we lost against Blackburn and Bayern here, at home. When people come to the Emirates, they're not to go away with wins. The rest concerns me less.

"You do your job and focus on the next game. That's what I did. I'm not 30 years in this job at the top level to be destroyed by people saying I don't know what I'm doing.

"I would have stopped this job a long time ago. But we have responsibilities and have to stand up and get the team ready to fight.

"We are in a catch-up situation. We do depend a bit on the results of the other teams, but also on our consistency.

"The key for us is to be consistent. A draw today would have been a very, very bad result."

Wenger also praised Cazorla for stepping up at such a crucial moment.

The Spaniard scored after six minutes and then again five minutes from the end to ensure Weimann's excellent 68th-minute equalizer ended up proving irrelevant.

"Cazorla played very well and delivered in a game that was very important," Wenger said.

(China Daily 02/25/2013 page23)

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