REUTERS - The character Arsenal showed in battling back from a goal down to beat Stoke City 3-1 in the Premier League on Saturday was proof of a growing mental strength in the team, according to manager Arsene Wenger.
Wenger sides have often been accused of wilting under pressure in the past but Arsenal have shown more resilience this season, fighting back to earn points against Manchester United, Paris St Germain, Southampton and Ludogorets.
“It’s the sixth time that we are down in the game and come back to win since the start of the season. That’s not a coincidence,” Wenger told British media.
“It doesn’t happen just because you say ‘Come on, you have to keep fighting’. That means there is something in the team that is quite strong, but after that we have to keep the spirit because that can be quite fragile.”
The club have been utilising the services of psychologist and former Oxford United centre half Ceri Evans, who has also worked with the world champion New Zealand rugby team.
Winger Theo Walcott admitted that Arsenal used to have a tendency to let setbacks throw them off their game but cited their reaction to the questionable penalty awarded against them on Saturday as proof of the change in attitude.
“You can see there was disappointment (but) I don’t think we dwelt on it too long,” said Walcott.
”I think we can feel sorry for ourselves in the past and say ‘It is not a penalty’ but you can’t change the decision once it has been made, that’s the thing.
“You are going to be annoyed at the time, that’s fine, but you have just got to deal with it and we reacted in a positive way.”
Arsenal, who are second in the table, travel to face ninth-placed Everton on Tuesday and could go on top of the table, at least until Chelsea face Sunderland a day later.
Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru, editing by Nick Mulvenney