LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) - After a week in which Arsenal’s alleged softness and lack of fortitude were the focus of many debates, the Gunners offered a reminder on Sunday that when fit and functioning as planned they remain a team which can produce genuine quality.
Despite going a goal down, Arsenal ran out 5-2 winners against Everton at Goodison Park in the Premier League, helped by the dismissal of the home side’s only defensive midfielder, Idrissa Gueye, but also inspired by an impressive attacking trio.
For the first time, Wenger was able to field German international Mesut Ozil, Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez and French striker Alexandre Lacazette together and the manager must hope he gets the chance to repeat that selection.
“I wish — but I feel the whole team played well,” said Wenger.
“We were tested mentally when we were 1-0 down after a very good start in the game. We couldn’t finish, their keeper kept them in the game and suddenly we were 1-0 down.
“It was a mental test but we kept going, we kept our focus and slowly the quality of our movement, the quality of our passing gave Everton problems. After that, with the offensive strength we have, of course that made the difference,” he said.
Wenger did not shy away from praising the individuals who had been key, with some high praise for Sanchez.
“He was on fire. I believe that he comes back from injury and has worked very hard, Ozil as well. The two of them were sharp physically, very mobile and if you have their individual quality, that makes them dangerous against any defender.
Ozil glided across the midfield, eluding Everton with his clever positioning and deft touch.
“He was superb,” said Wenger, “Agile, quick, intelligent. Always at the service of the team with the quality of his passing and when he is at that level, he is an exceptional football player.
“I told him after the game that a fit Ozil is completely different. If you’re not 100 percent at your best, no matter how good you are, you are at a handicap,” he added.
“The difference is that he has worked extremely hard physically. When he’s in that shape physically, nobody can question his class or the quality of his game,” he said.
The win was Arsenal’s first away from the Emirates Stadium this season and Wenger said they had finally got their just rewards despite conceding early.
“I was (concerned) because recently we’ve been punished for every mistake we make away from home. But I knew there was a long time to go.
“Our away performances this season have not been rewarded,” he said.
Editing by Clare Fallon