Arsene Wenger admitted after Arsenal’s victory over Wigan Athletic that there had been a lot of pressure on his side, and it was a relief to come through on penalties and reach the FA Cup final.
The Gunners were up against the defending champions at Wembley but were firm favourites to progress, and they were given a huge fright as Jordi Gomez opened the scoring for Wigan just after the hour mark.
Per Mertesacker equalised to send the tie to extra-time and Lukasz Fabianski then saved Wigan’s first two penalties to set Arsenal on their way to a 4-2 success in the shoot-out.
Earlier in the afternoon, Everton’s win over Sunderland had pushed Arsenal out of the top four of the Premier League, and Wenger – who has yet to agree a contract extension past the end of the season – was all too aware of the impact of another morale-sapping defeat.
“It is important that mentally we didn’t go out. You could imagine the consequences of going out, it is quite worrying,” the Frenchman said.
“I am relieved because there was a big pressure on us.
“I expected a difficult game and I was not disappointed.
“Wigan were impressive, well organised, physically very strong, calm when they had the ball.
“They played very well and showed why they knocked Man City out in the quarter-finals.
“We had everything a little bit against us for a while in the game. We needed to show some character, resilience and some nerves and we did it in a very united and resilient way.
“That was the most pleasing aspect because everyone expected us on that front.
“Even if we had lost, I would have said we had the mental level that I expected, and hopefully that win today will give us a lift for the end of the season.”
Wenger hailed the professionalism of Fabianski, who is set to leave the Emirates Stadium in the summer when his contract expires.
“Fabianski did very well. He is a good goalkeeper, he showed that again today,” the Arsenal manager said.
“During the game, even with the penalty they scored, he went on the right side. He is quick. In the penalties he put us in a good position.”
Wenger remains confident Arsenal can now go on to finish the campaign in style.
“If we win our games, we will finish in front (of Everton), so for us it is important now to focus on the Premier League,” he said.
“If we do that well I am confident we will come back, and on top of that we have a target now for the end of the season – the FA Cup final.
“We have now a period where we can concentrate on the Premier League.”
Credit: Sky Sports