Wenger: No regrets over selection

BY foxsports • January 24, 2010

Arsene Wenger insisted he had little choice but to field a weakened side as Arsenal were dumped out of the FA Cup at Stoke on Sunday.

The Gunners went down 3-1 at the Britannia Stadium in a fourth-round tie, and boss Wenger conceded that his youthful side could not cope with Stoke's physical style.

But with crucial Premier League games against major rivals Aston Villa, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool in a 14-day spell coming up, Wenger clearly was concentrating on his club's title ambitions.

Ricardo Fuller scored with a header in each half for Stoke, with Dean Whitehead adding the third. Denilson had given Arsenal hope with a first-half equaliser.

Stoke had beaten Arsenal in the league at the Britannia last season, sparking a war of words with Wenger over the Potteries side's physical style.

And this time Stoke repeated that performance. However, Wenger was more complimentary this time.

He said: "The game was more physical than technical, and physically they were stronger than us in a very simple game.

"We were exposed to a fight, and some of our players were a bit young and could not cope with it.

"I do not regret the side I put out, I did not have much choice. We had 10 injuries and a very difficult programme coming up.

"Our selection was simple, take a look at our schedule and you must see we cannot play the same 11 every time. That is for sure.

"But if you do not win in such situations, it is my fault. I can only stand by the team I selected in the circumstances, we lost but there was not much room for manoeuvre in terms of players available."

He added: "Were they better than us? Let's say they were more dangerous than us. That is a very important factor in winning games.

"They do not give me nightmares, you get no surprises when you play at Stoke. You know what to expect, but as the game went on they looked stronger and stronger in one-on-one battles."

Wenger joked: "I wanted to avoid a replay, that is why I sent on three experienced substitutes all together. And yes, it worked, didn't it. We have not got a replay!

"We have four very important games now in a short space of time, that is what we are focusing on.

"I wanted to win the game, and the cup. We didn't want to go out, but it was the sort of game that had we played at home we would probably have got away with it (fielding that team).

"But away from home it was a bit more difficult."

Stoke boss Tony Pulis was delighted with the victory, saying: "We are very pleased with the win. The spirit was fantastic from our lads.

"We knew that whatever side Arsene Wenger selected, it would always be a quality team.

"They were top of the Premier League this week and they have a lot of injuries already. But whoever they fielded, it was going to be quality because he has a lot of depth.

"For Arsene to say we were dangerous is a compliment. That's enough for me."

He added: "I was thinking of taking Ricardo Fuller off before the second goal, but he may have seen what I was going to do and he made sure he stayed on with that goal.

"He was outstanding, as was Mamady Sidibe who put in a tremendous amount of work that people do not always see.

"They are a good combination. They are a handful when they are on their game, and they were certainly on form for this one.

"Everybody gave their best, and we do well in this stadium. It is a great atmosphere when you are roaring around out there.

"The last thing either of us wanted was a draw, with seven games in February. With the size of our squad it will be tough with any more games.

"Nobody can question our spirit and togetherness, and the lads have shown that again to get us into the fifth round.

"I am proud of them, and the fans should be after that amount of effort."

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