Unai Emery was pleased with Arsenal’s ‘needed’ 4-1 win over Fulham and explained his decision to take off goalscorer Alex Lacazette was a tactical reaction to counter Fulham’s introduction Jean Michael Seri.
A large portion of the Emirates crowd booed the Spaniard’s decision to replace the French striker, who initially reacted with frustration at once again being given the hook.
Lacazette soon cheered up as he accepted a standing ovation and was later seen celebrating with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the touchline after the Gabon international sealed the win with a strike seven minutes from time.
“We needed to win today,” Emery told his post-game press conference.
“We spoke before in the dressing room about today being one day where we can be consistent here with our results.
“We knew that today we could win three points and that the three points would give us security in the table.
“We are behind the first four teams in the table, but we want to continue to be close and maybe in the future we can be in the top four if we take our opportunities.”
Emery went on to defend his decision to substitute Lacazette. “I understand the supporters,” he said.
“I need to do my work. Tactically, we are thinking that in this moment we needed to change to get more balance.
“Above all else, we know Seri very well and we needed to get a player close to him, to not let him play with the ball very easily.
“When Aaron Ramsey came onto the pitch, he could do that and can also help us in attacking moments and he scored.
“The reason for the decision was this and I need to do my work. Every supporter can think different things tactically, but for me today, Lacazette worked very well today, scored and he helped us. His reaction was very positive.”
The busy festive schedule may be over, but with games coming up in the FA Cup against Blackpool and then tricky encounters with West Ham and Chelsea, Emery knows his side must continue to focus on improving.
“Our challenge now is to improve defensively,” added the boss.
“What’s the reason? Maybe different things. First, not with every player, we need to defend more than we did today with different injuries.
“Today’s the first time we could play with Koscielny, Sokratis and Mustafi – and the injury to Mustafi in the first half meant we had to change to four at the back in the second half. But we are very happy with the attacking players scoring lots of goals like today, but we need to take more balance defensively and to improve.
“It’s one thing for us to work on, to prepare for the second half of the season. We need to do it better in the second half of the season by working with every player in the team tactically – and that’s what we’re going to do.”