Wenger hails Arsenal spirit and reacts to Fabianski’s penalty heroics
21:01 12 April 2014
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Arsene Wenger was pleased with his players’ togetherness after they scraped into the FA Cup final with a nervy penalty shoot-out victory over holders Wigan at Wembley.
Jordi Gomez gave the Championship outfit the lead from the spot midway through the first half as the below-par Gunners struggled to create chances, but Per Mertesacker equalised in the 82nd minute before the game went to penalties.
Stand-in Gunners goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski saved Wigan’s first two efforts and Mikel Arteta, Kim Kallstrom, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla kept their nerve as the Gunners triumphed 4-2.
“I’m relieved because we were under big pressure,” Wenger said.
“I expected a difficult game and I was not disappointed. Wigan were impressive, very organised and physically very strong. They played very well and showed why they knocked Man City out in the quarter-final.
“We had everything a little bit against us for a while in the game. We needed to show some character and some resilience and some nerves and we did. We were very united.”
He added: “It was a cup game and the difference between winning and losing is very, very small and this game has shown that again.
“But even if we had lost I think I would have said we were at the mental level I expected. Hopefully that win will give us a lift for the end of the season.”
Fabianski is out of contract in the summer but Wenger was delighted with the Pole’s heroics between the sticks.
“He did very well,” the Frenchman said. “I think he’s a good goalkeeper and he’s shown that again today.
“Even on the penalties they scored he went the right way. He was quick and he put us in a good position.”
Arsenal are in a battle with Everton to claim fourth place in the Premier League, and Wenger admitted going out of the FA Cup would have been a hammer blow for his side.
“It’s important mentally that we didn’t go out tonight,” he said. “If you imagine the consequences of going out tonight, it’s quite worrying.”
Aaron Ramsey returned in the injury-hit Gunners’ midfield but they remain without a number of key players.
“I believe we have a good team, but we have many players out,” Wenger added.
“Even this morning Chamberlain was still not sure to be available, Gibbs was not available either.
“Plus all of the other players who are out. We have a good squad but recently we are missing too many players.”
Wenger added that he wasn’t even aware of Everton’s 1-0 win at Sunderland before kick-off, but he remains confident of qualifying for the Champions League and said his side must quickly focus on the Premier League ahead of the visit of West Ham on Tuesday.
“I didn’t even know the result,” he said. “I think if we win our games we will finish in front [of Everton].
“For us it’s important now to focus on the Premier League and do it the right way.
“Our confidence will come back and on top of that we have a target now for the end of the season – an FA Cup final. But for now we can concentrate on the Premier League.”