Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger blamed his team's playing schedule for their sluggish second-half display against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. The 66-year-old Frenchman suggested their match against West Bromwich Albion on Thursday night (21 April) gave his team too little time to prepare properly for the game against the Mackems.
The Gunners dominated the match against Sam Allardyce's relegation-threatened team in the opening 45 minutes, but appeared to fade in the second period. The draw means Arsenal are now just five points clear of fifth-placed Manchester United having played an extra game, and Wenger admitted the north London club face a fight to qualify for the Champions League.
"I think our first half was very good. The second half is always more difficult when you play Sunday-Thursday-Sunday. We created less but could still have scored. We should have been in front in the first half," the Arsenal boss told the BBC. "It leaves us having to win the next game as always. We fight against teams who fight not to go down so we prepare to fight again next Saturday."
Meanwhile, Wenger admitted Arsenal and their French striker Olivier Giroud in particular, may have shown some anxiety in front of goal against Sunderland. Giroud has now gone 13 Premier League matches without a goal, his longest scoring drought in the competition.
"Maybe a little anxiety is creeping in when we are in front of goal. Giroud is lacking confidence but you go through spells like that," Wenger said.
Arsenal have three matches remaining in the Premier League, against Norwich City, Manchester City and Aston Villa. The north London club are, however, likely to have Jack Wilshere to call upon for those games after the England midfielder made his long-awaited return to first-team action at the Stadium of Light.
Wilshere made his first appearance for Arsenal since the 2015 FA Cup final, 330 days ago, during the match and his return is sure to have boosted his chances of making the England squad for Euro 2016, too.
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