Arsenal must 'stay united and fight' - Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger
Arsenal will look to get their season back on track against Spurs on Sunday

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger says they must "stay united and fight" following their FA Cup exit at Sunderland.

Coming just three days after crashing to a heavy Champions League defeat in Milan, it leaves the Gunners facing a seventh season without a trophy.

"We have to take the criticism on board, stay together and face the critics," said a defiant Wenger.

"It's very difficult to say where it leaves us and what we will do. The only response is to stay united and fight."

The Frenchman, who has been in charge of Arsenal since 1996, admits his side must now ensure that they finish the season strongly and earn the top four Premier League finish that would earn qualification for next year's Champions League.

"We must focus on the next game, finish well in the league and fight, even if it's a small possibility, in the Champions League," said Wenger, whose side currently sit fourth in the top flight, level on points with Chelsea, a point clear of Newcastle and four ahead of Liverpool.

A deflected Kieran Richardson strike and an own goal by the luckless Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain earned Martin O'Neill's Sunderland a deserved victory at the Stadium of Light.

But, having enjoyed a 2-1 league win over Sunderland a week earlier, just four days before Wednesday night's 4-0 defeat by AC Milan at the San Siro, Wenger says that Arsenal were "unfortunate" at being required to play three away games in a week.

"It was a committed performance," said Wenger. "We gave absolutely everything that was left in our legs.

"But it was a very unfortunate schedule to play away in the Champions League and immediately away again. They were very difficult pitches as well."

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Wenger questions penalty decision

Wenger also bemoaned his side's luck on the day, pointing to the fact that Sunderland's first goal was a deflection, their second an own goal and that Arsenal had a penalty turned down by referee Howard Webb for John O'Shea's challenge on Robin van Persie.

"I felt we were a bit unlucky," he added. "It was 100% a penalty for us that Mr Webb missed and their first shot on goal was a goal. Then we had to chase the game and take every gamble and we were caught on the counter for the second.

"We had a lot of possession, didn't create a lot down to fantastic defending from Sunderland, but they left us the ball and ran after it."

Arsenal will now look to get their season back on track next Sunday, when they host in-form north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who won their last league game 5-0 against Champions League-chasing Newcastle last weekend.

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