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Wenger wants naive Arsenal to learn some lessons

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Wenger wants naive Arsenal to learn some lessons

ALKMAAR, Netherlands (AFP) – Arsene Wenger insists his “naive” Arsenal stars must learn from the frustration of conceding a last-gasp equaliser against AZ Alkmaar.

Wenger’s side were on the verge of a third successive win in Group H after Cesc Fabregas’s first half strike put them ahead at the DSB Stadium.

But the Dutch champions – who had the worst possible preparation for the match when their owner’s bank was declared bankrupt on Monday – punished Arsenal for a lacklustre second half display as the Gunners‘ poor marking at a free-kick allowed David Mendes Da Silva to lash in the stoppage time goal that secured a 1-1 draw.

The Premier League club remain top of their group at the halfway stage so the damage from Da Silva’s goal is likely to be minimal, but Wenger was still unhappy at the way his young side surrendered their seven-match winning run.

“We are still learning. You do not need to give a free-kick away on an offside in the last minute,” Wenger said.

“We were caught a bit naively on the second ball, that can happen sometimes on the first one that you lose the header, but on the second one, their player was completely free to score.

“We were largely in control, but as long as you are not two goals in front, that is the problem.

“You can score with just one kick from the goalkeeper into your box. That is just football.”

While Wenger, who turns 60 on Thursday, was frustrated with his side’s failure to close out the match, he was full of praise for the way Ronald Koeman’s team refused to accept defeat.

“You know that in the last five minutes of a Champions League match, anything can happen,” Wenger said.

“They have thrown everything forward and felt they could only score on a set-piece, and that is what happened.

“It is frustrating because we looked closer to scoring a second than conceding, but credit to them, they did fight well and went until the last minute.”

Wenger knows Arsenal had only themselves to blame for taking their foot off the gas after the break, but even then the Gunners could have had a penalty when substitute Carlos Vela was tripped on the edge of the area in the 83rd minute.

“To me, it looked like a penalty, but I would have to watch it again. The referee was even closer than I was,” Wenger said.

“But we are still in a strong position. We have three games left, two at home, and I believe to win one game will qualify us.

“What I want is for us to continue to play like we do, focus to play better.

“In football, you have to produce the maximum result with your game, and tonight that did not happen.”

AZ coach Koeman has managed to frustrate Wenger several times in the Champions League in recent years. After knocking out the Gunners during his time at PSV Eindhoven, Koeman moved to Ajax and earned two draws against Arsenal.

But this may have been his best achievement given his team’s relatively small squad and budget.

“We made some mistakes in the first half, like when we lost possession for the goal,” he said.

“Arsenal were controlling in the second half, but we kept our spirit.

“I made some changes to try to win the game. We could put some long, high balls, then fight for the second ball.

“We never lost the spirit. I am very happy about the result and the performance of the team.”

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