Keep the faith – Wenger

Arsenal made sure United’s lead at the top of the table stayed at

just three points over Chelsea, whom they face at Old Trafford next

weekend, with a second-half goal from Aaron Ramsey – the

20-year-old Wales midfielder only in the side because of an injury

to captain Cesc Fabregas. It was a welcome first home league win

since the end of February, as Arsenal’s hopes of a ending a

six-season barren run unravelled before defeat at Bolton finally

put paid to any hopes of overtaking United and left them now

fighting to secure third ahead of FA Cup finalists Manchester City.

Wenger praised his team but will always be left to reflect on what

might have been as they can now have no more say on the destiny of

the title. “If you look at the age of the team, I think it is a big

encouragement for the club because we had a very young midfield and

were still very positive in our play,” he said. “We want to add

what is needed, but it is very important for the club that we keep

faith in what we do. “You can see that the players grow when they

get a chance, like Wojciech Szczesny compared to two months ago, he

has grown. “It is a law in our game, you can only grow at some

stage if you play. “People want both. They want to win every game

and they want to produce as well fantastic quality young players.

“But if [Jack] Wilshere has grown this season, it is because he has

played. “However, on the other hand, if you do not win, the same

people say ‘why do you play young players?”‘ Wenger accepts his

young squad were just unable to cope with the mental demands of

battling for honours on all fronts – the beginning of the end of

which was a dramatic late defeat in the Carling Cup final at

Wembley. “The team maybe lacks a bit of maturity under pressure,

they also had to deal with some big disappointments, and I felt

that had a subconscious effect on our team,” he said. “For me, it

was immense pressure to be out of the title race, believe me,

because I felt so strongly we would win this championship.” Good

fortune probably evened itself up over the course of yesterday’s

encounter after the officials missed two clear penalties, a

handball by United skipper Nemanja Vidic in the first half and also

a late trip by Arsenal defender Gael Clichy on substitute Michael

Owen. “We were really unlucky this season until now, let’s hope we

have a bit more luck in the final three weeks – you never know,”

Wenger added. Midfielder Samir Nasri was replaced at half-time with

“a small hamstring problem”, with Wenger hopeful both he and

Fabregas will be fit for next Sunday’s trip to Stoke.