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Arsenal boss praises his side’s mental strength after Newcastle win

Arsene Wenger.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images) Arsene Wenger. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Sunday, December 29, 2013
5:19 PM

Arsene Wenger praised Arsenal’s new-found resilience as they withstood a late onslaught at Newcastle to climb back to the top of the Barclays Premier League table.

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The Gunners found themselves having to defend deep and in numbers as they clung on to the advantage given to them by Olivier Giroud’s 65th-minute header at St James’ Park, taking three precious points in the title race.

Wenger said: “There is something in the team that is special on that front, on the mental front.

“We have many times been questioned, but we have shown that at West Ham, where we were 1-0 down, we have shown that again today, where we were a bit backs-to-the-wall in the last 15 minutes.

“There’s a great solidarity and a great spirit in the side. For years, we were younger to resist this kind of pressure, but we have always been up there at the top.

“If you analyse well our results, we have always been up there. Last year in this period, we were out of the championship race, but in 2013, we have been quite consistent.”

The game never lived up to the clash between the sides at the Emirates 12 months to the day ago when the Gunners ran out 7-3 winners.

This time, the contest was settled by one defensive error when Giroud got away from Mike Williamson to meet Theo Walcott’s free-kick with a glancing header to score his 11th goal of the season, although he was later guilty of a glaring miss which would have wrapped up the win.

Wenger added: “It was a very intense game against a good Newcastle team, who made it a big physical challenge, and overall I felt we were in control of the game until we scored.

“At 1-0, we missed a second chance that would have certainly sealed the game, but in the last 15 minutes, we showed another aspect of our team, and that means resilience, fight.

“We threw our bodies in the box and have shown a lot of resilience, so we have shown a technical aspect of our team that was quite good, but as well a mental aspect that was needed in a game of that stature.”

Meanwhile, Wenger distanced himself from speculation that he will make a renewed bid to sign Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye next month.

He said: “We don’t look for midfielders because we did not have Mesut Ozil, not Aaron Ramsey, who stayed at home, and we had still three good midfielders and Mikel Arteta on the bench, so there is no real need in there.”

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