Wenger relieved as Arsenal prepare for crucial Champions League trip with win
Team need to see off Olympiakos to reach last 16 in Europe
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted his relief after his team ended a run of three Premier League games without a win by overcoming Sunderland 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium.
Saturday's success was ideal preparation for next week's crucial Champions League trip to Olympiakos, where Arsenal must win by any score other than 1-0 or 2-1 if they are to qualify for the last 16.
And after a disappointing November, when a run of bad results was accompanied by significant injuries to Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin, Wenger is hopeful that it proves a turning point.
“I was more nervous than usual because I know it was a very important day for our season,” said the Frenchman. “I knew Sunderland would be very good on counter-attack.
“We came out of three disappointing results and I think it was a very, very important game for us today because of the fact we have not won and because we have lost important players in our side and we had to show we could win.
“We were edgy and nervy in the first half against a well-organised team. But in the second half I think we have shown mental strength and desire, more incisiveness in our game, more fluency.
“It was not perfect, of course, but the team has shown mental strength because we scored an own goal just before half time, but we have recovered to win the game.
“I thought it important to keep our nerve first because if you rush forward, they were dangerous on the counter-attack and we could have conceded a second goal.”
Arsenal went ahead through Joel Campbell's 33rd-minute goal, with Mesut Ozil setting up the Costa Rican winger to register his 12th assist of the campaign.
Olivier Giroud's own goal brought Sunderland level immediately before half-time, but the Arsenal striker made amends with a second-half header and Aaron Ramsey wrapped up the win in added time.
In a further boost for Wenger, Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs both made returns from injury, while Ramsey, who set up Giroud's goal, completed the full 90 minutes.
Defeat came on the back of successive victories for Sunderland, but manager Sam Allardyce believes that his side are moving in the right direction despite the fact they slipped back into the relegation zone.
“It's coming together,” Allardyce said. “The lads are believing in themselves more and showing more of their abilities, which is good from my point of view. I have to say the squad was tested today and it stood up to it.
“Jermain Defoe, Lee Cattermole and Seb Larsson are key players for us and the lads that stepped in and the team probably gave the best performance since I have been here.
“The spirit is getting better. The lads are believing more and getting to understand each other. We exploited the weaknesses of Arsenal today very well.
“I think I can honestly say I have been here with other teams, but never created as many chances as today. We have to continue performing at that level.
“For us today, the only thing that let us down was we slipped up on the first goal, which we could have defended better. If we could have got in front, we would have made them a bit nervous.”