Wenger not giv­ing up in race for top four

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LON­DON: Arsene Wenger in­sists Arse­nal can still sal­vage their tur­bu­lent sea­son by de­fy­ing the odds to snatch a Cham­pi­ons League place on the fi­nal day.

Wenger’s side kept alive their faint hopes of qual­i­fy­ing for Europe’s elite club com­pe­ti­tion as Alexis Sanchez’s dou­ble clinched a 2-0 win over rel­e­gated Sun­der­land on Tues­day.

The Gun­ners’ sixth vic­tory in their last seven games leaves them in fifth place, one point be­hind fourth-placed Liver­pool and three adrift of third-placed Manch­ester City.

For Arse­nal to avoid miss­ing out on the Cham­pi­ons League for the first time in 20 years, they must beat Ever­ton at home on Sun­day, while hop­ing for a slip from ei­ther Liver­pool or City.

If Liver­pool beat rel­e­gated Mid­dles­brough and City avoid de­feat at Wat­ford, then Arse­nal are con­signed to the Europa League, but Wenger hasn’t given up yet.

“We want to get in there, let’s give our­selves ev­ery chance,” he said. “If you have only a one per cent chance you still have to give ev­ery­thing.

“I think we have a good chance. If we win we know the most we will be be­hind is one point, so let’s see what hap­pens.”

At the con­clu­sion of a sea­son that only served to un­der­line how far Arse­nal have de­clined in re­cent years, Wenger knows miss­ing out on the top four would be the last straw for a large sec­tion of his club’s dis­en­chanted sup­port.

There were swathes of empty seats at the Emi­rates Sta­dium on Tues­day as fans stayed away in protest at Wenger’s fail­ings and the in­dig­nity of spend­ing their Thurs­day nights trekking to unglam­ourous des­ti­na­tions in the Europa League would be the fi­nal straw.

Wenger has yet to con­firm if he will re­main in charge next sea­son, but de­spite his team’s predica­ment, he opted to take a swipe at the crit­ics who have ridiculed his pride in lead­ing Arse­nal into the Cham­pi­ons League for the last 19 years.

“I an­swered for 20 years the ques­tion that be­ing in the top four is not a big deal,” he said.

“I’m sur­prised all of a sud­den it be­comes a big deal. We can talk and talk, at the end let’s make 75 points. It would be one of our best in the last 10 years. “We won more games than last year and we have one point more al­ready.”

If Arse­nal do miss out on the Cham­pi­ons League, Wenger has al­ready pin­pointed the cause; a se­ries of dam­ag­ing away de­feats.

“We shouldn’t have lost at West Brom and Palace, that is where we lost our chance,” he said.

Mean­while, Sun­der­land man­ager David Moyes took um­brage at Wenger’s sug­ges­tion this week that Arse­nal’s top four ri­vals ben­e­fited from play­ing teams with their minds on their hol­i­days.

“That’s an in­sult to foot­ballers. I’d hate any­one ques­tion­ing whether we would chuck a game,” Moyes said. “I don’t think Sun­der­land did that tonight, We had a go.” AFP

AFP PIC

Arse­nal’s Alexis Sanchez (front) scores his sec­ond goal against Sun­der­land at the Emi­rates Sta­dium on Tues­day.

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