Arsène Wenger has praised his team’s character after they secured an important 1-0 win against Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Per Mertesacker’s first-half header proved to be enough against Martin Jol’s side, who had to play with 10 men for the majority of the game after Steve Sidwell was sent off early on.
Despite their disadvantage, the hosts ramped up the pressure in the closing stages and Wenger was pleased his team held firm for the three points.
“We came through it,” he told Arsenal Player. “The character in the team is fantastic. When the ball was in the box in the last five minutes we always [used to] concede a goal and now we don't. That means that the resilience is there and the team has learnt.
“One [point] was not enough for us - we knew that before the game. I believe we had a good first half. With 11 against 11 we played well and with 11 against 10 we played well up to half time.
“In the second half, our game deteriorated. It looked like a combination of mental reasons and physical reasons. We played more not to make a mistake than to score a second goal.
“I told the players at half time that it was important to continue in a positive way because the crowd would be behind them if we backed off. You could see that in the last 10 minutes. It became very nervy.”
After the game, a number of players threw their shirts into the 3,000-strong away support. Wenger feels there is a positive bond between the fans and the squad which will prove important in the final weeks of the season.
“The fans see that the team fights,” he said. “Even when we don't play absolutely outstandingly, we fight. That's what the fans want.
“Your fans want to be proud of the team. They love the Club and of course want the players to act exactly the same. I think it's a nice gesture from the players to do that [throw their shirts into the crowd].”Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 22 Apr 2013