By Giuseppe Muro

Arsène Wenger says Arsenal did not deliberately sit back at the Nou Camp, they were just sent into retreat by Barcelona’s high-intensity game.

The Gunners were on the back foot for long spells as they went about defending their 2-1 first-leg lead on Tuesday, but Wenger said that was purely a reaction.

“I think we had no option, they closed us down so well in the first half that we didn’t manage well to get out,” said the manager on Thursday.

“It was never our intention to stay in our half, you look at the speed at which we lost the ball.

“If I played two full-backs on each flank in midfield you could say ‘ok, they wanted just to defend’. We played Rosicky, Nasri, Fabregas, Wilshere, Van Persie, and Diaby – not one defensive player.

“How can people think I said to the players ‘just stay in our half and wait’?

“I was absolutely desperate to get in their half and play but we didn’t manage to get out.

“It’s interesting to listen to the analysis of people [saying] we were dominated. We don’t deny that. But Barcelona had two shots on goal in the first half, they had a very sterile domination.

“You do not often see Arsenal not having one single shot on goal and of course that was our biggest problem but that would not have happened had we stayed 11 against 11, believe me.

“Overall they [the players] can gain a lot of confidence. The attitude and quality that we have shown in the two games was, for me, outstanding offensively and defensively. So the team can gain a lot of credit and belief as well."

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10 Mar 2011