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Wenger thrilled with debutant Monreal

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was delighted with debutant Nacho Monreal’s performance in his side’s 1-0 win over Stoke City on Saturday.

Wenger’s men had to wait until the 78th minute to open the scoring at Emirates Stadium, with Lukas Podolski scoring the winner.

The French manager was impressed with Monreal’s seamless transition – as well as the resilience of Theo Walcott – in the face of a very physical Stoke side.

“There’s no better culture shock than Stoke when you come from Spain because of course they have a very physical game and I think (Monreal) dealt well with it,” Wenger said.

“The satisfaction is that Monreal had a good start for a player who just arrived yesterday (Friday) and is in the team today. He had no time to think about it, but overall I felt he got stronger and stronger during the game.”

Walcott received treatment several times during the clash, and while Wenger did not feel Stoke were overly aggressive, he was disappointed by the lack of protection given to the 23-year-old.

“I feel overall Theo Walcott got good treatment today,” Wenger said dryly. “But I am very happy because the way he responded to it was with full commitment and desire to impose himself and that’s where you see today that Walcott has become a different player recently and he’s shown that today.”

Wenger also brushed off any doubts over the legitimacy of his side’s goal, with Podolski’s deflected free kick initially being ruled out before referee Chris Foy overruled his assistant.

“I haven’t seen it from the bench what happened,” he said. “I thought the linesman had given offside, I couldn’t see anything else, or maybe somebody from us had handled the ball, that’s all I could think.

“But in fact I have heard that Walcott was offside but he was not interfering with the game, then it’s a normal goal.”

Stoke City manager Tony Pulis was less convinced, lambasting the notion of a player being ‘active’, while also criticising Arsenal for pressuring the linesman.

“The disappointing thing for me was that the linesman has given the decision and the Arsenal players surrounded him, and I thought you weren’t allowed to surround officials today,” Pulis told reporters.

“It’s very, very ambiguous in lots of ways. And, like I say, we’re disappointed in that respect.”

Sat 2 February, 2013
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