Arsene Wenger has paid tribute to his players, hailing the Gunners' strength and character in the face of adversity, after Arsenal confirmed their place in the UEFA Champions League with a 2-1 win on Wednesday night in Italy.
Going into last night's game with a slender 1-0 lead from the first leg, all eyes were on Arsenal to see how they would respond to the miserable fortnight that now finally looks to be over after a 3-1 aggregate victory over Udinese.
Wenger insists he always believed his side had what it takes to triumph, and despite going a goal behind, the young Gunners answered their critics in style with goals from Robin Van Persie and Theo Walcott, either side of a stunning Wojciech Szczesny penalty save.
"We responded in a very positive way," confirmed Wenger. "Even being down 1-0. I'm very happy because we kept our composure, we kept dominating, and playing the football we want to play.
"We have been a little bit under pressure and for us not to play the Champions League and with the players who left, that pressure would've increased, understandably.
"[But] since the beginning of the season, I feel a very strong, determined attitude within the team."
The recent departures of former captain Cesc Fabregas, and star turn Samir Nasri, have left many Arsenal fans deflated, causing some of them to call into question the frugal Frenchman's transfer policy, and the ambitions ogf their once great club moving forward.
But a defiant Wenger hit back at the pessimists amongst them, saying those who have predicted another trophyless campaign for the Gunners need look no further than last night's spirited performance to understand there is plenty of reason for hope, and optimism.
"We live in a society where everybody has an opinion on everything," he continued. "I'm like somebody who flies a plane for 30 years and I have to accept that somebody can come into the cockpit and thinks he can fly the plane better than I do. But that's part of our job and we have to accept that.
"I just would like to say that the club is in overall a very strong position because, for 15 years on the trot, we play in the Champions League.
"We have a new stadium and a fantastic training ground, a very good financial situation and a very strong team."
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