Wenger hails Ollie’s spirit

Keith Southern narrowly misses in front of goal
Keith Southern narrowly misses in front of goal
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ARSENE Wenger praised Blackpool’s never-say-die spirit and admitted his team had a “nervy period” as they struggled to shake off the stubborn Seasiders.

Wenger was delighted to claim the points after three consecutive Premier League draws and close the gap on leaders Manchester United to seven points.

But he admitted the Gunners didn’t have it all their own way at Bloomfield Road, particularly in the first 20 minutes of the second half, when the Seasiders pulled a goal back and piled on the pressure.

Wenger said: “That is what you get with Blackpool and a team fighting relegation. They have achieved more than most people thought they would this season and have always played well. I knew at 2-0 they would not give up.

“We missed some chances in the first half and at 2-1 we had a little nervy period, but at 3-1 we killed the game. They had given a lot but from then it was quite comfortable.”

Arsenal’s afternoon in Blackpool began dramatically, when goalkeeper Manuel Almunia injured himself in the warm-up and Wenger handed a start to 41-year-old Jens Lehmann.

And the veteran German, who the Gunners coaxed out of retirement to provide emergency cover, was at the centre of one of the game’s main talking points.

DJ Campbell appeared to be brought down by Lehmann in the build-up to Pool’s goal.

Referee Lee Mason played a good advantage but Lehmann seemed fortunate to escape punishment.

Wenger, who had no goalkeeper on the bench, said: “That was the important split-second of the game.

“I felt Jens played the ball. Even if he gives a penalty he can give a yellow card, not more. He didn’t try to deliberately foul. He tried to intercept the ball.”

Blackpool boss Ian Holloway felt his side should have had a penalty moments later, when Taylor-Fletcher went down under a challenge from Laurent Koscielny.

Holloway thought it was a nailed-on penalty but Wenger said: “I think we were unfortunate to have a few offsides who were not offside in the first half, personally.”

Robin van Persie eventually eased Arsenal’s nerves with the third goal 14 minutes from time and Wenger reckons the Gunners still have a chance to win a first Premier League title since 2004.

He added: “It is only three points but it could help us to keep a chance, We have promised ourselves to give everything until the end of the season.”