By Wayne Veysey at Emirates Stadium
Arsene Wenger has admitted he made a mistake with his crucial second-half substitution in Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat to Manchester United but explained that he had good reason to replace rookie Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with Andrey Arshavin.
The Gunners manager’s decision to withdraw the excellent Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 74th minute shortly after the teenager had set-up Robin van Persie’s goal was greeted with jeers at Emirates Stadium.
Wenger said: “I can understand that the fans are upset and frustrated about the decision, especially when it doesn’t work. That means that you made the right decision at the start of the game.
“He [Oxlade-Chamberlain] had started to fatigue and stretch his calf. He was sick during the week. You have an 18-year-old kid making his first Premier League start and a player who's captain of his country and they are querying the substitution? Let's be serious.
“People pay for their tickets and are free to express their emotions. It doesn't mean they are right always.
“I have to stand up for the substitutions I make. I don't have to explain every single decision. I’m 30 years in the job, I have made 50,000 substitutions. I do not have to explain myself to you (the press)."
The Arsenal boss said he did not blame Arshavin for being knocked off the ball so easily by Antonio Valencia in the build-up to United’s winner, which was eventually smashed home by Danny Welbeck.
“If you expect me to blame one player, it will not happen,” he said. “We win together and lose together. If I make a mistake I am sorry.
“It [the mistake by Arshavin] could have happened as well if he [Oxlade-Chamberlain] had stayed on. Manchester United are very dangerous on the flanks.”
Arsenal supporters urged Wenger to spend some of the £50 million transfer kitty at his disposal at the final whistle but the Frenchman said: “Spending money is not the target. Buying good players is the target. We need our own players back. People are not conscious that we miss 10 players.”
Wenger was disappointed by his team’s first league defeat at home since August, which leaves Arsenal five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea.
“I am really disappointed. We were nervous in the first half, but we came back well with a fantastic fighting spirit,” he continued.
“United are a bit more mature than us. To battle like we did and come out with nothing is tough to take.
“It leaves us in a difficult position, because we couldn't afford to lose. But there are a lot of positives, too.”