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Wenger Afraid To Criticize Players As It Could Affect Their Confidence

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says he does not want to make an issue of the team’s recent bad starts as it could affect the confidence of the players, and accused Southampton of time-wasting after the 1-1 draw at St Mary’s on Sunday.

Arsenal repeated their poor start from last week against Manchester United as Per Mertesacker gave the ball away after just three minutes, setting up a quick attack for Southampton that was finished off by Charlie Austin.

The Gunners struggled to create chances for much of the game until substitute Olivier Giroud headed home an equaliser in the 88th minute, but his side still remain outside the Premier League’s top four.

Arsenal conceded two similar goals in the first 11 minutes in the 3-1 loss to United last weekend, and Wenger admitted that may have had an effect on his players.

“I felt that we played with an excellent spirit,” Wenger told BT Sport.

“But in the last two weeks, unfortunately we dropped points in the last two games for bad starts — we are caught straight away. And after, it’s difficult.

“Of course you’re concerned, but you don’t want to make too big a problem of it because it takes belief and confidence away from the players. I think you could see today that last week had an influence on today’s start of the game. The players wanted to start strong, and overall I believe it took us time to get into the game again.”

Wenger singled out Southampton’s time wasting in the second half as a problem, and said Premier League referees have to crack down harder on such efforts.

“I feel the wasting of time becomes a real problem in England, and the referees have not found the answer yet,” Wenger said.

“The answer is the authority of the referees. First of all, I think it’s in the head of the players to respect the game, and to play. And secondly, the authority of the referees to act early in the game, because it becomes really a problem in the last two seasons.”

Giroud’s goal was his 17th as a substitute in the Premier League, tying the record held by former United forward Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Giroud has yet to start any league game this season, but Wenger paid tribute to the striker’s ability to deliver off the bench when it matters.

“I think he has come back into a very good shape, he has shown that again today. He is mentally extremely strong as well,” Wenger said. “It’s a remarkable achievement what he has done again today.”