BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom (AFP) – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has hit back at his critics after his side fell 10 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester United on Saturday.
Aston Villa held Arsenal to a 0-0 draw and Wenger’s decision to replace striker Olivier Giroud with midfielder Francis Coquelin late in the game at Villa Park was met by chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” from the visiting supporters.
Wenger was asked for the reasons behind the substitution in light of the reaction of the Arsenal fans but insisted he did not need to provide an explanation for his managerial decisions.
“I will not explain every decision I make, you judge the game for the papers and I sit here and explain to you our game,” Wenger said.
“You can discuss every substitution. You think what you want. I do my job and I let people judge it. I do that every day and I do my best every day. I know why I do it.
“Why should we panic? We will worry about our next game and we will play that. I don’t know why you should worry more than you have to.
“We are focused on the next game. We lacked a bit of sharpness in the final third against Aston Villa. Physically we were jaded.
“Always when you play away from home after the Champions League it can be difficult. But it could have gone both ways and you have to say Aston Villa fought very hard and they had some chances as well.
“We lacked some accuracy with some balls, but I cannot fault my team for the strength we have shown for 90 minutes,” the Frenchman added.
Wenger also confirmed that he decided to rest Jack Wilshire for the game as a preventative measure given the heavy pitch and the fact the England midfielder has only recently returned from a long spell out injured.
“I decided that Jack was to be rested and to not bring him on. It’s more dangerous to bring him on in weather like that when he’s tired. It made sense for him not to play,” said Wenger.
“Wilshire has played three or four games together and I decided to give him a breather.”
Meanwhile, Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert urged his players to follow up a good performance against Arsenal with a victory over Reading on Tuesday after the point lifted them out of the relegation zone.
“We defended very, very strongly. When you play United, City and Arsenal back to back it’s a tough thing mentally. I see them training every day and the way they perform I don’t have a problem,” Lambert said.
“Tuesday against Reading will be tough but we’re playing well at the moment. There’s a good belief that we can win games.
“Against Arsenal you are against a top side and you have to try and stop them playing. I thought we did that but we also were a threat.”
Lambert refused to disclose the reasons behind striker Darren Bent’s omission from Villa’s matchday squad even though the striker had trained ahead of the game after a recent ankle injury.
“It’s my choice. That’s the squad I went with that I thought could win us the game. Listen I have 25, 26 guys to think about,” Lambert said.
“The most important thing is this football club. The football club is my main priority. I have to get them to try and win and games. I pick a team and a squad that I think will do well.
“We are a young side but we are growing together, which is great. We are a threat. The front three were definitely a threat.”