LONDON, October 21- Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal’s memorable 2-0 win against Bayern Munich will give his players the belief to complete their Champions League escape act.
Wenger’s side had put themselves in a perilous position after losing their opening two Group F fixtures against Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos, but they clawed their way back into the battle to reach the last 16 in dramatic fashion at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday.
Battered by Bayern’s intelligent movement and astute passing, the Gunners were under seige for long periods and could have succumbed to a defeat that would have left them on the verge of failing to make the knockout stages for the first time in 16 years.
Yet Arsenal showed the kind of mental strength and defensive composure that has so often eluded them before Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer’s mistake gifted Olivier Giroud the 77th-minute opener.
Mesut Ozil sealed the win with virtually the last kick and, with three group games remaining, Arsenal head to Munich on November 4 with renewed hope.
Gunners boss Wenger is confident they can maintain the momentum of an impressive recent run which also included a 3-0 rout of Manchester United.
“We were not at our level of focus in the first two European games because we were thinking about the Premier League, but tonight we had that focus,” Wenger said.
“You never know if you will win, but I knew the team focus and dynamic was there.
“Overall we have beaten a very strong team and kept a good level of focus from the first minute.
“This can strengthen our belief and the belief of people around us.
“We won 3-0 against Man Utd, 3-0 against Watford and 2-0 tonight. If we defend well and score then it shows the balance is right.”
Despite their gritty efforts, Wenger knows Arsenal still have little margin for error to make the last 16 and, asked if he thought his team would qualify now, he said: “I don’t know. We need a result at Bayern in our next game.”
– Different option –
Having Giroud back to his best would certainly help.
After losing his place as Arsenal’s central striker to Theo Walcott this season, Giroud reminded Wenger of his qualities as he came off the bench to score the crucial opener.
“Giroud had a little dip in form, but I see in the last two weeks he is coming back to his best,” Wenger said.
“You have to give him some credit. It’s not easy because he is used to being in the team.
“But he is a winner and when he comes on he gives us a different option.”
The only frustration for Wenger on one of the most memorable European nights of his 19-year reign was the hamstring injury that forced off Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey in the second half and could keep him out for some while.
“He’s not happy. He told me it’s a tough injury,” Wenger added.
Although they failed to score for the first time in 13 matches, Bayern shouldn’t be too troubled by their first defeat of the season.
They remain top of Group F and Guardiola was adamant he had no reason to be critical of his players.
“We tried to dominate the game and had enough chances to win it or at least not lose it,” he said.
“I like to win, so I’m not happy but we played with a lot of courage here. I can’t explain why we didn’t score.
“We took the ball from Arsenal. They have very good, fast players, but we were played with a lot of personality and showed we can compete here.
“We created enough chances to win, but the opponent was more clear in the last moments. Sometimes in these moments we have to be perfect and we weren’t quite perfect.”