Wenger praises makeshift Arsenal defence in victory over Sunderland

Following Laurent Koscielny’s withdrawal from the matchday squad and his replacement Carl Jenkinson’s second-half dismissal, the Gunners boss was thrilled with the clean sheet

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has praised his side’s “excellent” defensive display in Saturday’s hard-fought 1-0 win over Sunderland.

The Gunners edged a close encounter courtesy of Santi Cazorla’s first-half strike, a goal that capped off a dominate opening 45 minutes for the away side as they controlled proceedings with ease.

However, the tide turned after the break when Carl Jenkinson was dismissed for a second bookable offence and, in light of Laurent Koscielny’s withdrawal through injury ahead of the game, Wenger was keen to commend the performance of makeshift centre-back Bacary Sagna and the resolve of the whole team.

“It was a game with a high level of intensity,” he told reporters. “We showed some good things going forward but we couldn’t get the second goal, then we had to show another side in the second half, especially in the last 20 minutes down to ten men. We had to be committed.

“Today the defence were excellent. When you think that Sagna has just been told 15 minutes before the start that he was playing centre-back, overall him and [Per] Mertesacker were excellent.

“Cazorla [was] top, top class. When you think that this guy is not a starter for the Spanish national team, it shows you how strong they are.”

Martin O’Neill, meanwhile, admitted to initial teething problems regarding Steven Fletcher and new signing Danny Graham’s partnership – but is confident the pair will soon click for Sunderland.

“It was a great game from start to finish. The tempo was very high early on, obviously Arsenal are a top quality team and caused us a lot of problems in the first half,” he told reporters.

“In the second half we were roaring at them before the man was sent off. I just don’t know how we didn’t score. I think the two players [Graham and Fletcher] can play together, it’s not a problem it will just take time.”

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