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 the Emirates Stadium.
Wenger said: “When it was 1-1 it looked like we would win but in the end one tactical mistake lost us the game.
“I do not want to dwell too much on that now but one second of inattention can cost you.
“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. Arshavin is the captain of the Russia national team and he is replacing a guy of 17 or 18 who is starting his first or second [Premier League] game.
“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 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 - eventually smashed home by Danny Welbeck after good work from the Ecuador winger.
“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.”