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Wenger questions Arsenal's mental strength

Kevin Palmer
February 18, 2013 « Mancini: Aguero can rescue PL season | Chartbeat test »
Arsene Wenger is under fire at the Emirates © Getty Images
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Arsene Wenger has accused Arsenal of lacking the mental fortitude required to succeed at the highest level of the game following their shock FA Cup exit.

Saturday's demise against Championship opponents Blackburn at Emirates Stadium has edged Wenger towards the most perilous crisis of his 16-year reign as Arsenal boss, with celebrity supporters such as broadcaster Piers Morgan and golfer Ian Poulter among those calling for the Gunners boss to resign.

Yet the 63-year-old Frenchman is unlikely to bow to such pressure and he has launched an unusually potent attack on the stars who let him down by publicly questioning their commitment to the Arsenal cause.

Gervinho, Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Abou Diaby and Olivier Giroud were among those who failed to take their chances when handed starts in the FA Cup fifth round tie and now Wenger has suggested a change of attitude is required if his side are to salvage some pride in their troubled season in Tuesday night's Champions League clash with Bayern Munich.

"Mentally, we are not capable at the moment of preparing in exactly the same way for every game," Wenger revealed. "The top level is about consistency in every single game and that's what we couldn't show.

"Coming after the Sunderland game (a battling 1-0 away win) we came out with a flat performance and this shows that mentally, we are not capable at the moment of preparing in exactly the same way for every game.

"Maybe they still thought 'we're playing at home against Blackburn, we will win the game anyway' but it doesn't work like that. I think we have a great team but this shows we still have to show more maturity on the mental front. We have to understand what it means to win big games. It is vital for our season that we respond well to this."

Wenger had rejected suggestions that he should take the blame for the Blackburn defeat, as he claimed his decision to rest the likes of Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski was no excuse for Arsenal's shock exit.

"You had basically the regular defence and in midfield you had (Mikel) Arteta, Rosicky and Diaby and then you had Gervinho, Chamberlain and Giroud, who are all regular players for me," he stressed.

"I am the first to stand up and say I am responsible for the team selection but that is not an excuse, but we cannot beat Blackburn like that, I don't think it is down to the selection of the team."

The Arsenal boss went on to stress that he is more eager than anyone to end the club's eight-year wait for a major trophy, as he insisted his persistent stated aim of a top four finish the Premier League is not his only priority.

"It is vital for us to fight for silverware," he added. "Unfortunately this one will not happen for us now and we can only look at ourselves and not complain about anything else. We have to come out with a strong response on Tuesday.

"The players are very angry and disappointed. First you have first to rebuild the confidence because we are not playing against Blackburn on Tuesday night. We play Bayern Munich so a lot of confidence will be needed."

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