Wenger refuses to single out Almunia
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger declined to single out Manuel Almunia for blame after the goalkeeper comitted two blunders as the Gunners were beaten 3-2 at home by West Bromwich Albion.
After spending the summer locked in a protracted and ultimately unsuccessful courtship of Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer, Wenger decided to stick with Almunia as the transfer window closed. But the Gunners' failure to resolve their hunt for a world class No.1 came back to haunt them at the Emirates yesterday as Almunia was at fault for two goals.
Wenger however refused to point the finger at Almunia. "You can have question marks over many players if you look at the performance, especially defensively," he said. "Many players made massive mistakes.
"I do not want to come out about any one performance, we were collectively poor. You could single out many players. Overall it was a poor team performance and we have to analyse why and respond well."
Almunia gave away a first-half penalty when he tripped Peter Odemwingie but he saved Chris Brunt's spot-kick. Odemwingie opened the scoring then Almunia allowed Gonzalo Zara's near-post shot past him, before he rushed out too soon for the third when Jerome Thomas tapped in against his old team. Samir Nasri pulled two goals back but Wenger was disappointed with the performance.
He added: "I believe this game was an exception. Until we played West Brom we had good games. I didn't recognise my team. We have to sit down together to analyse what happened. Our performance was not right. It was unusual to see a team as flat was we were today."
West Brom boss Roberto Di Matteo felt his team were worthy of maximum points. "I would say we deserved it," said the former Italian international midfielder. "The way we played, we created chances, scored goals and played very well.
"We missed a penalty, I'm not sure about the yellow card for the goalkeeper. It's a question mark whether he should stay on or not. We pressed them very high. We managed not to let them play their usual way. And when we had the ball we passed it very well and created chances ourselves."
Di Matteo has earned a reputation of his teams playing attractive football, but he is also getting results. "I don't want us just to be pretty, I want results at the end of the day," he said. "We got a hammering at Chelsea and it wasn't a pretty week after that, but we've learned. We still have to improve but we tried to remove those mistakes because we gifted them the first three goals that day."
Di Matteo believes Arsenal will still have a chance in the title race this season under Wenger's leadership. "Last year not many people gave them credit and they managed to stay at the top until three or four games before the end of the season," he said.
"I think it's similar this season. They have signed some fantastic players. Anybody can beat anybody and it's going to be competitive at the top." As for West Brom staying at the top, he added: "We have the second lowest budget in the league, you have to be realistic."