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Wenger praises ‘sensational’ fans despite protests as Arsenal rescue draw against Man City

Manager said supporters lifted anxiety-ridden players to twice fight back against rivals City

02 April, 2017 — By Tom Foot

There were reports of skirmishes inside the Emirates Stadium among home supporters

Arsenal 2, Manchester City 2

ARSENE Wenger paid tribute to “sensational” Gunners fans on a day when some brawled amongst themselves inside the stadium and protesters in the streets called for him to resign before Arsenal’s clash with Manchester City.

The under fire manager thanked supporters for helping his side overcome their “high level of anxiety” and twice peg back top four rivals City to stay in the hunt for Champions League qualification.

Smartphone footage – widely circulated on social media – appeared to show Gunners fans trading blows in their seats. Tempers are flaring between divided sets of supporters and there was another placard protest before the game.

Wenger said: “Despite this, despite all that has happened with the fans, I felt today they were fantastic today. At 1-0, and 2-1 down – they were sensational. They really helped the team in the difficult moments.”

City began on the front foot with Leroy Sane rounding David Ospina on 5 mins to score.

Arsenal dug in and Theo Walcott prodded in an equaliser on 40 minutes. But the celebrations had barely ended before Sergio Aguero struck a firm drive into the bottom corner, two minutes later.

Shkodran Mustafi headed-in on 53 minutes to level things again at 2-2, setting the stage for what looked like would be a grandstand finish.

But there were few real chances to speak in a dead phase of play where the recent shortcomings of an out-of-breath looking Mesut Ozil were painfully exposed.  Faced with a good chance to round the keeper and win the game on 80 minutes, he was sluggish to the ball and ran second best to City keeper Willy Caballero.

Alexis Sanchez, again played out on the left, had a poor game by his standards. While Granit Xhaka – a big summer signing – does not inspire confidence and was booked for a rash challenge.

Arsenal have exactly the same points after 28 games as last season but are crucially seven points off fourth spot, with a game in hand.

Wenger said that “mathematically” the single point was “not the best” but that “mentally” it was “outstanding” and could lay foundations for a strong end of season finish.

He said: “Overall, we started with a high level of anxiety and we were punished straight away. I care about my team. I have a good measure of anxiety in the team. I think this can help rebuild confidence.”

After the match, Pep Guardiola said City were not yet confident enough “to handle a 1-0 situation”.

Wenger said Laurent Koscielny was subbed off at half time with an achilles injury and Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, who were not in the squad today, “have a chance to be available” for the Premiership tussle with West Ham at the Emirates on Wednesday night.

ARSENAL: Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny (Gabriel 45), Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka,  Ozil, Coquelin, Walcott (Giroud 68), Sanchez, Welbeck (Iwobi 77 )
Subs not used: Martinez,Gibbs, Elneny, Maitland-Niles
Tickets sold: 60,001

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