It’s been oh so quiet at Arsenal since the costly home defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace. The Gunners take on Wolves at Molineux on Wednesday night in the Premier League looking to get their bid for the top four back on track. Aside from a few social media posts carefully put together by the PR teams behind Arsenal’s glittering array of stars, there has been a wall of silence from inside the changing room. No-one spoke to the press after Sunday’s game – not even to the broadcast rights holders – while the few players who did decide to walk through the scattering of written media in the mixed zone kept their eyes firmly on the floor as they waved away any requests to speak.
Sunday’s result hurt and the silence that followed was a clear example of that. It was Arsenal’s opportunity to move above Tottenham and cement their place in the top four, but instead they now head to Wolves on Wednesday night sitting fifth. Champions League qualification is still in their own hands. Four wins from their final four games will guarantee that Arsenal are back dining at Europe’s top table next season.
But, with three of those games coming away from the Emirates, amassing 12 points from 12 is something that looks highly unlikely – especially when you consider Unai Emery’s side have won just twice on their travels in the Premier League since the turn of the year. That’s why the mood was so low following Sunday’s home defeat, the first Arsenal had suffered in the league since being downed by Manchester City on the opening weekend of the season. And now Bernd Leno has given an insight into exactly what went on when the players made their way back to the changing room having seen their unbeaten run at the Emirates come to such an untimely end.
“It was very quiet, everybody was disappointed and frustrated because it was a big chance,” the German goalkeeper told Goal . “But when the manager came in he said ‘no worries, it’s a disappointing result and a disappointing day but we have to look forward to the next game because qualification for the Champions League is still in our hands’. “Against Wolves we have another chance.”
Arsenal head to Molineux on Wednesday night with much of the attention focused on Shkodran Mustafi, whose error gifted Wilfried Zaha the chance to score Palace’s crucial second goal on Sunday. With Mesut Ozil having cancelled out Christian Benteke’s first-half strike soon after the interval, it looked like the hosts would go on and get the win they needed to move above Spurs into third. But then Mustafi inexplicably decided to try to protect a Benteke flick-on for Leno rather than just clearing the danger, allowing Zaha to nip round him and score. The much-maligned German centre-back has come in for some stinging criticism since the error – with former Liverpool star and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher labelling the defender ‘a mess’. But Leno has leapt to the defence of his countryman – insisting Mustafi was not to blame for the defeat.
“There are so many mistakes in the game,” he said. “Every goal is about mistakes so it is not a big problem when someone loses the ball and we concede a goal. “It’s not a big problem because we are one team, we stay together so everything is easy.”
When quizzed on whether Mustafi had apologised to him in the changing room following the mix-up, Leno added: “No, we are one team. We win together and we lose together. It’s not that one player has to apologise for a mistake. “It was maybe a wrong decision for the second goal but you can’t change it. Mistakes happen. I think there was 30 minutes still to play so we had big time still to win the game.”
Mustafi looks unlikely to feature at Molineux on Wednesday night, with Sokratis set to come back into the side having sat out the past two Premier League games due to suspension. And Emery will be delighted to have the experienced Greek centre-back available again given the defensive frailties that were on show for all to see against Palace on Sunday. Wolves also had a disappointing result at the weekend when they were held 0-0 at home by Brighton – but Nuno Espirito Santo’s side still have a chance of finishing seventh and their record against the top six sides this season is hugely impressive.
They have already recorded victories against Spurs, Manchester United and Chelsea, and they were within a few minutes of beating Arsenal at the Emirates in November before Henrikh Mkhitaryan struck late on to salvage a somewhat fortuitous 1-1 draw.
“I remember the game at the Emirates,” recalled Leno. “They play for the counter attack and the transition and they are very good. “They had big chances because of transition, but also because of our mistakes. “I think we have to expect a very good team [on Wednesday night]. At home they are very strong so we need a very good performance. “I think the key will be defence. With a strong defence we can win this game.”