Arsène Wenger says Arsenal defeat at Newcastle was ‘a worry character wise’

Louise Taylor at St James' Park on 15 April 2018

A resigned, almost brutally realistic, Arsène Wenger described Arsenal’s fifth successive away defeat in the Premier League as “the story of our season”.

His side’s 2-1 defeat at Newcastle United means Arsenal have failed to collect a single point on the domestic road during 2018, casting their manager’s future into serious doubt.

Much hinges on their ability to overcome Atlètico Madrid in the Europa League semi-final and then win the trophy but the fatigue induced by the quarter-final second-leg draw at CSKA Moscow on Thursday clearly played a part in their second-half downfall on Tyneside where they could not sustain a fiercely intense early tempo.

“It’s the story of our season,” said Wenger, who thought Arsenal might have had a penalty when Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang’s first-half shot hit Jamaal Lascelle’s hand. “We had 70% of possession and were 1-0 up. You wonder how you can lose this game. It could have been over at half-time. It’s very harsh to swallow a defeat like this. It’s very disappointing.

“Of course it’s a concern to have lost five games in a row away because traditionally we have a very strong record away. It has become a subconscious weight on our minds. Once you’re in a negative spiral like this it is very hard to get out of.”

Arsenal’s Arsène Wenger
Arsenal’s Arsène Wenger faces up to another Premier League away defeat as his side go down at Newcastle. Photograph: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

By way of mitigation he cited European commitments. “It’s very difficult to combine the Europa League on Thursday night and the Premier League on Sunday afternoons,” Wenger said. “Some of our players were affected physically by getting back from Moscow so late.

“But losing like this is a worry character wise. Our attitude today was spot on but I have to be realistic enough to say that maybe our balance offensively and defensively doesn’t work.”

In contrast a delighted Rafael Benítez banished any lingering relegation fears by lifting his 10th-placed Newcastle side to 41 points after a fourth successive victory. “It’s a great achievement,” he said. “A fantastic achievement at the end of a very difficult season.”

Asked if he would extend the remaining year on his contract Benítez, who celebrates his 58th birthday today, replied opaquely. “If everything’s right, we have a good opportunity here but everything has to be right. We have to be sure that, next year, we have the tools to compete at the level we want to compete at.”

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