Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insists his team do have the mental resolve to bounce back from defeat to Manchester United and sustain a Premier League title challenge but admits they only have themselves to blame for the loss at Old Trafford. The Gunners are three points behind Tottenham Hotspur and five adrift of leaders Leicester City after Marcus Rashford netted twice to down the visitors.
Making his first Premier League start, Rashford netted twice inside the opening 32 minutes but Danny Welbeck's header gave the away side hope of staging a second half revival. Wenger's team were unable to rouse themselves however and Ander Herrera re-established the two-goal lead before Mesut Ozil scored what turned out to be a consolation.
With 11 league games remaining, the manner of the defeats calls into grave question Arsenal's durability in the title race where each of the contenders have shown themselves to be fallible. A lacklustre second half showing was a particular concern but Wenger is confident his team can respond starting against Swansea City on Wednesday [2 March].
"When we on top of the game we conceded two quick goals from crosses and overall I think we have the first chance, we had a lot of the ball but got caught on two crosses in the first half and in the second half on the counter attack after we scored," the Arsenal boss told Sky Sports. "They have scored the goals and we have to look at ourselves. For sure our spirit and commitment was 100% there but it is difficult to win away from home when you concede three goals.
"They stopped us a lot with little fouls and that was very frustrating an apart from that I could not question our desire or commitment at all. We lost three points but we have to show that we are up for a fight and give absolutely everything in our next game. Things can change quickly but only if you keep going and keep believing. We are in a fight where we can show we have great character and great mental response on Wednesday night."
Though David de Gea and Marco Rojo returned for United, they were still forced into naming a string of inexperienced players with Tim Fosu-Mensah and James Weir later coming on to make their league debuts, following in the footsteps of goalscoring hero Rashford. Arsenal had significantly more experience in their ranks but were unable to make that advantage count.
"The [Manchester United] players are young some of them but honestly in midfield they played with Schneiderlin, Herrera and Mata and at the back with Carrick, Blind and De Gea," he added. "Yes they are young strikers but they are quality, it is not the name that counts but the performance and their strikers put a good performance in. I am very disappointed but I am ready for a fight on Wednesday night."