Wenger still optimistic in face of criticism

After one of the toughest weeks in his 16-year reign, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says his side are united and looking confidently towards Monday's Premier League clash at Reading.

Arsenal were dumped out of the League Cup by fourth-tier Bradford City on Tuesday, the first time the club had lost to a team from a lower division in England's second knock-out competition in his time in charge.

Much has been written in the press in the days following the defeat, including reports of a rift between Wenger and assistant manager Steve Bould.

Wenger has angrily denied that suggestion and said Monday's match was a chance to show the real character of the North London club.

"I believe it's a good opportunity to show that we are strong inside the club and let people talk," he told a news conference on Friday.

"We are criticised when results are not good, we have to take that on the chin, but [when] we have to face a lot of lies, [it] is less acceptable."

Wenger named a near full-strength side against Bradford but backed his players to get over the shock defeat.

"We are top professional people, what is important is what happens tomorrow, not what happened yesterday," he said.

"We are sorry for that, but what is important is the next game."

French striker Olivier Giroud is expected to return after missing Tuesday's match with a back injury, while Laurent Koscielny is back in training after suffering a groin injury at the end of November.

The fitness of Theo Walcott continues to be assessed.


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