Wenger eyes top four

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

LON­DON — Arsene Wenger be­lieves Ar­se­nal are gath­er­ing mo­men­tum at the right time af­ter they en­hanced their prospects of qual­i­fy­ing for the Cham­pi­ons League with a hard-fought 2-1 win at West Ham.

First half goals from Santi Ca­zorla and Danny Wel­beck at Up­ton Park on Sun­day were enough to help Ar­se­nal leapfrog West Ham in the Pre­mier League ta­ble.

And, af­ter a splut­ter­ing cam­paign, the Gun­ners are back on course to fin­ish in the top four and seal a cov­eted place in Europe’s elite club com­pe­ti­tion.

“The Cham­pi­ons League is vi­tal for us,” Wenger said. “We have done it 17 years so I’m en­ti­tled at least to be­lieve we can do it.

“It’s still all to do. When you look at the league, ev­ery­one fights very hard for it. Southamp­ton, Tot­ten­ham, Man United, so many teams who can fight for th­ese po­si­tions.

“I al­ways had that be­lief, but it’s far from done. We just want to win the next game and be con­sis­tent in our per­for­mances.

An­other victory at fourth placed Southamp­ton on New Year’s Day would be a fur­ther step in the right di­rec­tion for Wenger’s side.

“If you look at our re­cent re­sults we look to be more sta­ble. We have a big game in front of us now at Southamp­ton,” Wenger added.

With the trans­fer win­dow set to open on 1 Jan­uary, Wenger knows there will be spec­u­la­tion about moves in and out of the Emi­rates Sta­dium, but the Gun­ners boss is fo­cused on get­ting his in­jured play­ers fit rather than any wheel­ing and deal­ing.

Out-of-favour Ger­many striker Lukas Podol­ski con­tin­ues to be strongly linked with a Jan­uary move to In­ter Mi­lan.

But Wenger has played down the prospect of him mov­ing on and is more con­cerned at see­ing the likes of Me­sut Ozil, Aaron Ram­sey and Jack Wil­shere re­turn from spells on the side­lines.

“There’s noth­ing con­crete there with Lukas,” Wenger added.

“At the mo­ment no­body goes out. Ozil is com­ing back at the back of Jan­uary, so of course there is a lot of com­pe­ti­tion up front.”

West Ham were sur­prise chal­lengers for a Cham­pi­ons League place be­fore back-to­back de­feats derailed their charge.

But boss Sam Al­lardyce is hop­ing for a re­sponse against West Bromwich Al­bion to mark the start of the new year as he looks to get his side back on track.

“The play­ers have once again given their all. I can­not ques­tion their com­mit­ment all sea­son,” Al­lardyce said.

“We have to go again now and we have only lost two games.

“Of course we want to bounce back against West Brom now.”

Al­lardyce was also frus­trated that ref­eree Neil Swar­brick and his as­sis­tant ruled out Alex Song’s early strike due to Di­afra Sakho stand­ing off­side in front of Ar­se­nal goal­keeper Wo­j­ciech Szczesny.

“If we’d been al­lowed that goal we wouldn’t have lost. We would have kicked on and Ar­se­nal would have found life very dif­fi­cult from then on,” Al­lardyce said.

“I’ve not spo­ken to the ref be­cause I don’t see any point in con­fronting him when you know you’re 100 per­cent right and he hasn’t had the vi­su­als. You can’t get any­thing out of telling him how wrong he’s been.

“Go­ing on what we were told at the start of the sea­son, they got it hor­ri­bly wrong. He (Sakho) wasn’t in the eye-line of the keeper. He didn’t touch the ball.

“Yes he was off­side, but we’ve seen so many of those al­lowed as goals. I’ve not seen one ‘not given’.

“Can you tell me what is an off­side? Now I’m to­tally and ut­terly con­fused and be­wil­dered. There are far too many in­con­sis­ten­cies.”

Full 1 Jan­uary 2015 fix­tures Stoke City v Manch­ester United, Liver­pool v Le­ices­ter City, West Ham v West Brom, Manch­ester City v Sun­der­land, Queens Park Rangers v Swansea, New­cas­tle United v Burn­ley, Southamp­ton v Ar­se­nal, Hull City v Ever­ton, As­ton Villa v Crys­tal Palace, Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur v Chelsea. — SAPA-AFP

Ar­se­nal’s san­ti­ago Ca­zorla con­verts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bot­tom left cor­ner on sun­day.

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