Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger put his sides 2-1 comeback win over Leicester City down to the mental strength which keeps the Gunners firmly in the title hunt.
In the end, it was two substitutes in Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck who scored the crucial goals to eliminate Jamie Vardy’s penalty in first-half stoppage time.
And having scored the vital winning goal in the dying embers of second half stoppage time, Wenger told the media, as reported by official Arsenal website a defeat would have been massively damaging.
It will strengthen our belief that we are in the fight. We had a bit of a dodgy spell, Liverpool 3-3, Stoke 0-0, lost to Chelsea, 0-0 at home with Southampton. Now after that we won two games and we are still mathematically in the fight, that will strengthen our belief of course.
A loss today would have been massive, yes. Even after that you get all the negative vibes, the belief goes down, would have been much more difficult. We would not have given up, but eight points is three games to come back. We would need to win three , they would need to lose three.
It was a gruelling, intense battle against the league leaders.
Danny Simpson’s red card for two yellows not long into the second half made life hard for the Foxes, but it didn’t make it any easier for Arsenal to break them down.
After an engrossing 90 minutes, Wenger explained how happy he is for Welbeck to return from a 10-month injury layoff in spectacular fashion.
You know Danny Welbeck, he is a great guy, with a great mentality. He worked extremely hard. That is why he is fit.
[I made the decision] Yesterday. In the last two days he was convincing in training.
I planned at the start, when I made my press conference on Friday morning, to play him next week. But in the last two training sessions he was very strong and I decided just in the end to include him in the squad.
It was a great decision because Danny Welbeck is a great player, and you never know in our job if somebody else had come on would he have scored or not. But everybody is extremely happy for him, because he has been out for 10 months, that is an eternity for a player.
We work very hard, our medical team, our fitness team, to bring him back so strong. Let’s not forget he has not played one minute for us, he has just played 45 minutes in the under-21s.
Arsenal made life difficult for themselves by going a goal down on the stroke of half-time after Nacho Monreal’s foul on Jamie Vardy. The Englishman stepped up to fire past Cech, but Wenger didn’t think it was the right decision to award the penalty.
Honestly, I said we were unlucky at half-time to be 1-0 down, because I thought it was a free-kick on Ozil on the edge of the box. And I thought that was a good opportunity for us to score just before half-time. And one minute later we were 1-0 down from a penalty that for me was not obvious at all.
So that was a big mental hurdle for the team, we were under shock at half-time. We didn’t see that coming, and we were eight points behind Leicester at half time. You could see today that Leicester are not in this position by coincidence. They are quality, they defend very well, they come out very quickly. But I think in the second half we had the right energy level and they never came nearly past half-way.