London: Arsene Wenger has challenged Arsenal to make amends for one of the most humiliating defeats of his career when they face Swansea on Tuesday.
Wenger’s side suffered an embarrassing 6-0 thrashing at Chelsea on Saturday that brutally exposed their claims to be genuine contenders for the Premier League title.
The Gunners boss had hoped to celebrate his 1,000th match in charge of Arsenal with a first victory over Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho in a fixture with major implications for the title race. But instead a day that had the potential to be one of the more memorable of Wenger’s illustrious career ended in a statistical nightmare, as Arsenal slumped to their biggest ever defeat against Chelsea and one of the heaviest losses of the Frenchman’s near-18-year reign in north London.
Chelsea demolished Arsenal’s fragile defence with three goals inside the first 17 minutes, after which the visitors played with 10 men after the dismissal of Kieran Gibbs in a case of mistaken identity by referee Andre Marriner, who confused the Arsenal left-back with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain following the midfielder’s handball on the goal-line.
Arsenal are now languishing in fourth place, seven points behind leaders Chelsea, and with their morale at a low ebb after a result that Wenger conceded was one of the worst moments of his managerial career.
But Wenger believes the north London team can erase the bitter taste of that loss on Tuesday when they play their game in hand on Chelsea against Swansea at the Emirates Stadium.
“What is important is to give a response on Tuesday night and that is it. I don’t believe it is the time to talk too much about what went wrong,” Wenger said.
“The players are deeply disappointed as we all are, but now I think let us prepare for the next game.
“We can win the next game, so that is what we have to focus on now and give a strong response.
“We are in a situation now where, after such a disappointment, that the next game becomes vital.”
After losing 5-1 at Liverpool, 6-3 at Manchester City and 6-0 at Chelsea this term, there is a growing belief that Arsenal are pretenders rather than serious contenders for the title.
Yet, despite the capitulation at the Bridge, a victory against Garry Monk’s Swansea would close the gap to four points and give Wenger’s men a much-needed morale boost as they try to convince themselves they can overhaul Chelsea.
Arsenal are set to appeal against Gibbs’ red card, with Marriner having already apologised for his mistake, and it seems likely Oxlade-Chamberlain will be the one suspended against Swansea.
“The referee made a mistake because he missed the identity of the player, he has not seen what happened at all,” Wenger said.
“Maybe it was a penalty, but it was not Gibbs.”
Meanwhile, Swansea have worries near the foot of the table as they have not won since Monk’s first match in interim charge in early February after the dismissal of Michael Laudrup.
The south Wales club have picked up just five points from six games to leave them just four points above the relegation zone.
And defender Ben Davies accepts they have a hugely significant few days ahead days ahead as they face Arsenal before hosting fellow strugglers Norwich on Saturday.
“It is a massive week for us and we definitely need something out of the next two games,” he said.
“We cannot afford to let our confidence slip and get into negative ways with everyone feeling sorry for themselves because then we don’t have any chance of winning games.
“We’ve got to take it into our own hands.”