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Wenger relief as Arsenal triumph

Gunners boss says he is proud of his under-fire players as they finally return to winning ways

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 February, 2013, 4:13am

Arsene Wenger said he was proud of his Arsenal players after Santi Cazorla lifted the gloom around the Emirates Stadium with a crucial double in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa.

Wenger had faced renewed calls for his resignation after last weekend's FA Cup exit against second-tier Blackburn and the midweek Champions League defeat against Bayern Munich only added to the impression of a club spiralling out of control.

In the circumstances anything but a victory against struggling Villa would have given Wenger's critics more ammunition to attack the Frenchman, so there was a sense of relief when Cazorla bagged the winner with five minutes remaining.

Until then Arsenal had laboured to kill off third-bottom Villa, who recovered from Cazorla's first-half opener to equalise through Andreas Weimann after the break.

Cazorla's efforts moved Arsenal within one point of fourth placed Tottenham and Wenger said he was impressed with the way his under-fire Gunners' players responded to their difficult situation.

"I'm proud of the attitude of the team," Wenger said. "We went through some difficult days and responded in a united way."

When Wenger gave a tetchy press conference before the Bayern match it seemed the pressure was starting to take its toll.

But he refused to say whether the last week had been the worst of his 17-year tenure, claiming he had been in the job too long to be affected by criticism.

"I don't know if it was the worst but it was difficult. The most difficult was not the criticism but the fact we lost two games," Wenger said.

"I'm here to win games. But we lost against Blackburn and Bayern here, at home. When people come to the Emirates, they're not to go away with wins. The rest concerns me less.

"You do your job and focus on the next game. That's what I did. I'm not 30 years in this job at the top level to be destroyed by people saying I don't know what I'm doing.

"I would have stopped this job a long time ago. But we have responsibilities and have to stand up and get the team ready to fight.

"We are in a catch-up situation. We did depend a bit on the results of the other teams, but also on our consistency.

"The key for us is to be consistent. A draw today would have been a very, very bad result."

Villa slipped back into the relegation zone as a result of Wigan's win at Reading, but boss Paul Lambert felt his team's performance deserved a positive result and he remains defiant they will stay up.

"We shouldn't have lost it. We were exceptional in parts of that game and we should have been in the lead at half-time," Lambert said. "At the very least we should have come away with a point."

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