MANUEL ALMUNIA maintains Arsenal have deserved their criticism – but declared the Gunners can prove the doubters wrong.
Arsene Wenger’s team saw their Premier League title hopes rekindled following last night’s 1-0 win over Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium as both leaders Chelsea – beaten at Everton – and Manchester United – who drew at Aston Villa – dropped points.
While there is still plenty of hard work ahead for the Gunners to remain in contention, Wenger can take heart from his team’s apparent easier run from now on – having lost to both United and Chelsea before completing the double over fourth-placed Liverpool.
“We accept all the critics. Arsenal is a big club and we deserve to be criticised because we have been playing for many years without fighting for the title,” said Almunia.
“The team is growing up and everybody accepts it because we cannot say anything when we don’t play well.
“We just go home and wait for the next game so we can win.
“Against United we were not on our game at any time. Against Chelsea we played well, but as soon as we switched off a bit, we lost.
“There are small points we need to improve, not technically or tactically, but personally – little things that we have to show more.”
The Gunners will have a weekend off as they are no longer in the FA Cup, before a return to Champions League action at Porto next Wednesday night when Croatia striker Eduardo could return from a hamstring problem, while Andrey Arshavin will undergo treatment after picking up a knock against Liverpool.
Wenger last night revealed Samir Nasri had recovered after feeling unwell following a blow to the head against Liverpool.
However, the Arsenal manager expressed some concern over Arshavin and Alex Song, who has suffered a knee problem.
“Nasri got an elbow in his face and he felt unwell. But that is no problem. He will be available [against Porto],” said Wenger.
“Unfortunately we have lost Alex Song with a medial knee ligament problem. I hope he will be available for next week, but it is not for sure. He is very sore today so we’ll have to see how he responds.
“Arshavin looks to be a hamstring problem. We have to assess that too.”
Almunia revealed how a frank team meeting had helped refocus attention.
“We were talking about our last two games and we said to each other that it is not possible not to show character on the pitch,” the Arsenal keeper said.
“It is not possible for a team who want to be top of the table.
“We talked more with the players individually because they are young.
“They are mature, but they need to be told things clearly.
“When I was younger, the most experienced player would sometimes tell me about things. I was talking to William Gallas, Sol Campbell and the others – everyone was helping each other and it is a good attitude.”
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