KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted to the sense of relief that the Gunners are still alive on the trophy trail after crawling over the shootout line in their FA Cup semi-final duel with holders Wigan.
Wenger’s men won 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 extra-time draw and he said: “I feel relieved because it was big pressure.
“I expected a difficult game and I was not disappointed because Wigan were impressive and well organised. They showed why they knocked out Manchester City In the quarter-final.
“We had everything a little against us for a while in the game and had to show some character and resilience and nerve and we did it in a very united way.
“In a cup game the difference between winning and losing is very small. This game has shown that again but even if we had lost I would have said we were at the mental level I expected and hopefully that win will give us a lift for the end of the season.”
Wenger said he was not aware until after the game that Arsenal had slipped down to fifth in the Premier League since their Cup distraction had allowed Everton to overtake.
He said: “It’s important now to focus on the Premier League and I’m confident we will come back and now we have a target for the end of the season as well as now being able to concentrate on the Premier League. The consequences if we had gone out tonight were quite worrying.”
Wigan manager Uwe Rosler said he could not fault his own team’s effort and regretted that, because of early injuries, he could not leave substitutions for fresh legs until later in the game.
The first German to manage in the English club game said: “I could not have asked for any more from my team. We showed great mental strength and character and spirit and when you go into penalties it’s always a little big of a lottery.
“Last year [with Brentford] I remember we lost automatic promotion in the last game and went into the Wembley promotion play-off final with a will to make up and that is definitely our target now – that is what we are breathing and skeeping and eaitng and resting and recovering for.
“We walk out on paper as losers but in our minds as winners because the way we presented ourselves was unbelievable. To come back this year and be so close to the final and nearly eliminate four Premier League teams . . . I think my players deserve a lot of credit for that.”
Wigan now have to recover quickly from their disappoint to ensure they compete, at least, in the end-of-season promotion play-offs.
Rosler, asked about the test of multiple challenges, said: “When you are a young manager you want to win everything and people tell you that is possible. Well, I want to prove it is possible.
“We want to be competitive on both fronts and I think we have proved we can do that. I wanted desperately to go to the final and so did my players did . . . . but we didn’t so now we move on.”
Asked about the shootout, Rosler permitted himself a wry flash of humour, saying: “We didn’t practise penalties. You know, I am German, we don’t need to practise penalties. But we’ll be back in May [for the second division promotion play-off final and then we will practise penalties!”