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"Young players will learn from Emirates experience"

25 October 2016

Stam on Arsenal, Ali, Forest and our fans...

Royals boss Jaap Stam admitted that the better side beat his team at the Emirates this evening, but was confident that the young players amongst his starting eleven would learn a lot from an EFL Cup defeat to a slick Arsenal side.

"It’s never nice to lose. But today, I think you saw, we played against a very good side," Stam began.

"We didn’t want to let them get into their game, because if we gave them time and space on they ball we knew they would make it difficult for us.

"We could have done a bit better. But when you play against a team like this, it’s a learning experience. For the young players who played today, you need to learn from these games, pick things up from playing at this level and playing in stadiums like this.

"We went for it. The boys worked very hard for it. We created a couple of chances. But it’s never easy against Arsenal. And of course, they had chances to score too."

Those chances were largely repelled by the brilliant Ali Al Habsi, who made a string of stunning saves to thwart the hosts - the best denying Olivier Giroud a comeback goal with a wonderful goalline reaction save in the second half.

"Ali is an experienced goalkeeper. He made a very similar save on Saturday in fact, and he’s a great goalkeeper, quick in reacting – and he saved us there!

"He made a couple of others too. He’s in good shape, improving with age, and he has been great for us – hopefully he can keep it up."

The opening goal came when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain capitalised on a mistake in our passing from the back and the Royals boss agreed that we would learn from mistakes of that ilk.

"Sometimes you lose the ball. And against a side like Arsenal, they’re deadly up front. If you play possession and have time on the ball, you need to be very accurate in your passing and in what you’re doing.

"We need to learn from that, and make decisions not to play that ball at times, look for a different solution."

And now the Royals will focus on league matters and the visit of Nottingham Forest on Saturday - a game he hopes to turn into three points in front of a home crowd as supportive and vociferous as the 5,000 who travelled to the Emirates this evening.

"We want to do well against them, we want a result. The fans have been here in their numbers today and they were great for us – hopefully they can do the same thing for us on the Saturday and hopefully we can get a result.

"We made some changes tonight because we need to look at the games we are playing next. Arsenal have a squad of 65 players contracted – we haven’t. So we need to look at what we’re doing and set our priorities.

"We need to look at what is most important to us as a club and I think the league is the most important thing for us – so we needed to make choices. Of course we want to get as far as we can in the cups, all the way to the final if we can, but certain players need to have a rest at certain times too.

"It was tempting to start with certain players tonight, but some have a few niggles after the last league game and we need to be careful with the players we have. We need to set our priorities.

"Because of these games in the cup, there has been no rest for us. But we are all looking forward to the games coming up and Nottingham Forest on Saturday."

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