Wenger hails Arsenal's "mental strength" after Everton victory

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has hailed his players after their 3-1 win against Everton.

The Gunners were forced into a reshuffled back four because of injuries to captain William Gallas and Bacary Sagna, which saw a debut for former Manchester United defender Mikael Silvestre.

However, the hosts were behind inside nine minutes when Leon Osman struck from close range.

Arsenal were forced into another change when Kolo Toure was replaced because of a shoulder problem, with England winger Theo Walcott coming off the bench to help inspire the home side.

Samir Nasri drew the Gunners level before Robin van Persie - who on another day could have bagged himself a hat-trick - nodded in from close range.

Walcott drilled home an angled effort in stoppage time to give the bruised Gunners renewed confidence for more stern challenges over the next seven months.

"We showed personality and mental strength - and that will be important for the rest of the season," said Wenger.

"I was not nervous at half-time because I had confidence and belief we would change the game.

"Everton had a good start, but in the last 20 minutes of the first half we were on top. Theo came on and did very well, he had impact in the game, but the whole team played very well and it was a good test for the team today."

Wenger added: "We played our season today. We could not afford to drop points and the way we responded was vital."

Everton defender Tony Hibbert and Arsenal full-back Gael Clichy were involved in a second-half scuffle following a late challenge on Denilson, which resulted in both players being cautioned by referee Peter Walton.

Wenger observed: "It was not a good challenge, but I do not think the challenge deserved a red card."

Arsenal's win meant they did not lose any more ground on title rivals Liverpool and leaders Chelsea, who romped to a 5-0 win at the Riverside.

However, Wenger maintained: "For me big results like that have no meaning because 5-0 is not the difference between Middlesbrough and Chelsea.

"In the first 20 minutes you could see Middlesbrough were having a bad day at the office - every little deflection went for Chelsea, they did not need to get out of second gear to win game.

"That was not the normal Middlesbrough, who are a good team and it is always a difficult place to go."

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