Tony Mowbray, whose side is surely now condemned to the Europa League, was in no mood to argue. “We were not good enough,” he said after the defeat in the first leg of the Champions League play-off to a Gary Caldwell own goal and a free-kick deflected by the back of William Gallas.

“It was a fierce battle but I felt we dominated,” said Wenger. “Celtic were always willing
to fight, to counter attack. Despite being in control we scored two lucky goals. But we needed a very strong Arsenal side to win the game.”

He emphasised: “We forced them to make one or two 
mistakes but I concede we were lucky on the goals. But we merited the good fortune.”

He said that Arsenal had endured a night that stretched their nerves and skill. “The crowd was up for it, the Celtic
players were up for it. The atmosphere was outstanding, even better than the Premier
League. With an average 
performance we would not have won the game today.”

The advantage leaves the second leg at the Emirates Stadium next week as almost a formality, but Wenger said that Arsenal were focused on reaching the group stages of the Champions League and would not relax. “We are in a strong position and we want to take advantage,” he said.

He praised the performance of Aiden McGeady, adding: “Celtic were well-organised. Even at 2-0, they never gave up. I was impressed with their attitude.”

But Wenger was also pleased with the resilience of his side, who have often been accused of being a “soft touch” in the face an aggressive attitude by opponents. “We have a fantastic attitude and a great togetherness,” said the Arsenal manager. “We put relentless pressure on Celtic and never let
them get a flow to their game.

“We had some harsh treatment. I am very happy with the commitment of my team despite the physical approach of some Celtic players. I can understand it from Celtic’s point of view but what is more interesting to me is how we responded to it.”

Wenger was convinced that Arsenal have the “ingredients”
to achieve success after five years without winning a 
trophy. For Mowbray, it was a “night of frustration”. He was disappointed that his side was not assured in possession and could not play through an Arsenal side who pressed Celtic relentlessly.

Mowbray, unsurprisingly, maintained a positive outlook despite the size of the task facing his side. The absence of Landry N’Guemo through suspension will not make 
matters easier but Mowbray would not concede the tie.

“Let us not disguise the fact it is a big ask for us,” he said. “But the secret will be to go there and score the first goal. If we do that we will see how their mentality is and how their
supporters react. Arsenal may automatically think their job is done. We have to be positive.”

He said that “both goals were difficult to take” but that Caldwell’s strong character meant there would no lasting
damage to his psyche after conceding the foul that led to the first goal and then scoring an own goal. The centre-half was also sent off in Scotland’s 4-0 defeat to Norway in Oslo last week. If it was a week the defender will want to forget, there were lessons that Celtic should remember from the defeat.

“It was a tight football match,” said Mowbray. But he was aware of the difference
in class between one of 
England’s Big Four and Celtic. Arsenal were comfortable in possession and showed speed of thought and feet. “You can not deny their quality with the ball,” he said. “That is why they get to Champions League finals and semi-finals. It is why they are one of the best teams in the world.”

There was one bright spot for the Celtic manager. “McGeady was the one player
in our team tonight who showed he was genuinely top quality, that could match their quality on the night. I don’t think it is a secret Arsenal have better players than we have.”

The crowd was up for it, the Celtic players were up for it. The atmosphere was outstanding, even better than the Premier League. With an average performance we would not have won the game.