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01 March 2024

Wenger urges Arsenal to bounce back against Bayern


Arsene Wenger has called on his Arsenal side to bounce back from their humiliating FA Cup defeat by Blackburn when they face Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Boyhood Arsenal fan Colin Kazim-Richards's second half goal sealed an unexpected 1-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday that sent second-tier Blackburn into the FA Cup quarter-finals 72 hours before Bayern arrive in north London for the first leg of their last 16 tie.

Arsenal must now overcome German giants Bayern, last season's losing  Champions League finalists, if they are to have any hope of ending their eight-year wait for a major trophy with the Gunners a massive 21 points adrift of Premier League leaders Manchester United.

"It's a good opportunity to show we have character, and that we are men who can fight for each other in our next game," said Arsenal manager Wenger as he tried to rally his players. "That's all we can do.

"It's about showing how strong and good we are in our next game. If we feel sorry for ourselves, we'd be completely wrong," the Frenchman added.

"We have a massive game on Tuesday night and we have to show some response."

Defeat by Blackburn marked the first time Arsenal had been beaten by a lower league side in the FA Cup since Wenger took charge in 1996.

And it came after another loss to a team below the Premier League -- fourth-tier Bradford -- sent the Gunners crashing out of the League Cup earlier this season.

"This has happened to many teams this season against lower league teams," said Wenger.

"We were not good enough to win the game today (Saturday), simple as that.

"It is very painful and disappointing to lose a game like that, but what is important now is to get that behind us and focus on the next one.

"We had enough chances to win and we didn't. We lacked ruthlessness in front of goal, didn't make enough of our corners, and we were vulnerable to one mistake."

Wenger insisted he did not regret leaving the likes of Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla on the bench, pointing out he fielded a side packed with internationals.

And the manager denied the defeats by Blackburn and Bradford indicated his side were in decline.

"I'll leave the definite thinking to others, football is much more unpredictable than that," Wenger said.

"Sixteen years without losing to lower league sides, nobody had done that. Until now our effort has been good.

"It's disappointing that it's happened twice this season, but I prepared for those games in exactly the same way as I had in the previous 16 years."

Blackburn manager Michael Appleton insisted he never wavered in the belief his side, owned by Indian poultry giants Venky's, could book their place in the last eight.

"I just asked them to believe they could win," said Appleton, Rovers' third manager of a troubled season.

"We talked about it last night in the team meeting. It's one thing showing up in a game, but another believing you can win it.

"We are now one game from a semi-final at Wembley. I'm sure the players will be desperate to get a Wembley appearance under their belts."

But Appleton, with his third side this campaign after starting off at crisis club Portsmouth and a brief spell at Blackpool, added: "I hope the result helps us in the league, but we have to move on.

"We've got Hull on Tuesday and that will bring everyone down, be a reality check. This (the league) is our bread and butter."