Arsene Wenger admits it would have been a “disaster” had Arsenal bowed out of this year’s Capital One Cup thanks to their first-half capitulation against Reading.
The Gunners fought back from 4-0 down to force extra time and eventually triumph 7-5 at the Madejski Stadium after a truly remarkable contest defined by irresistible attacking and inept defending.
At the club’s annual general meeting last week the Frenchman ranked the Capital One Cup fifth in his list of priorities, but after the match he admitted that to go out in such a manner would have been humiliating.
“It was not one of our priorities but had we gone out the way we could have gone out, it would not have been one of my proudest moments,” the Frenchman told reporters.
“We went from disaster to giving ourselves at least some pride, because we came back with a decent performance.
“We had only hope that we would go through, but at least we got our first-half disasters out of our system.
“I felt for our fans because even at 4-0, they stayed behind the team. I would like to give them credit, and I’m happy that we paid them back in the second half.
“Once it was 4-4 I felt we would win the game, because Reading had given a lot, and were mentally down. We looked quite comfortable in extra time.”
Wenger knows first-hand the pain of losing a four-goal lead, having been pegged back to a 4-4 draw by Newcastle in February last year, and expressed his sympathy for Reading boss Brian McDermott.
“They had a fantastic start, and I know what it is to be pulled back when you’re 4-0 up,” he continued. “Reading should take credit from that performance, and maybe not be too disappointed.
“At 4-0, you think you have won the game. At 4-1, you still think you have won the game. At 4-2, you suddenly realise it isn’t over, and then the panic kicks in.
“It doesn’t matter how good a player you are, when that happens, it goes right through the team.”
The Gunners boss also took the opportunity to praise contract rebel Theo Walcott, who bagged a hat-trick to cap a man-of-the-match display.
“I always said he will be striker,” Wenger insisted. “He’s a good finisher now. He knows where to be on the rebounds. That is the quality of a striker you can’t give to someone, they either have it or they don’t.
“I want to keep him, and I think aside from the contract talks, you have to give him credit for the way he is committed to the team, and for the way he behaves.”