Gun­ners’ last-chance sa­loon

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LON­DON: Ar­se­nal man­ager Arsene Wenger hopes the thorny is­sue of his fu­ture will not prove a dis­trac­tion when his side at­tempt to squeeze into the Cham­pi­ons League against Everton to­day.

Wenger’s fu­ture re­mains un­re­solved and he said on Fri­day he ex­pects a decision to be an­nounced af­ter a board meet­ing that will take place in the days fol­low­ing the FA Cup fi­nal against Chelsea on May 27.

Wenger has come un­der fire from an in­creas­ingly vo­cal num­ber of Ar­se­nal fans, but with the team’s top-four hopes in the bal­ance, he says his per­sonal cir­cum­stances should be put to one side.

“I think what is the most im­por­tant for us is to win the foot­ball game we play on Sun­day,” he said. “Af­ter that, what hap­pens to me is less im­por­tant. I’m here to serve the club and the best way to do that is to win the next game.”

Wenger’s hand has been weak­ened by the fact Ar­se­nal stand to miss out on a place in the Cham­pi­ons League for the first time in 20 sea­sons.

De­spite an up­turn in form that has seen them win six of their last seven league games, they con­tinue to re­side out­side the top four, a point be­hind fourth-place Liver­pool and three points be­low third-place Manch­ester City.

To fin­ish in the top four, they must ei­ther bet­ter Liver­pool’s re­sult at home to rel­e­gated Mid­dles­brough or win and hope City lose at Watford by a mar­gin that en­ables a five-goal swing in goal dif­fer­ence.

Should Ar­se­nal draw and Liver­pool lose by two goals, the two teams would fin­ish the sea­son with iden­ti­cal records, ne­ces­si­tat­ing a play­off match to sep­a­rate them.

Like Everton, who are guar­an­teed to fin­ish sev­enth, nei­ther Mid­dles­brough nor Watford have any­thing to play for, but Wenger hopes all three teams will put up re­sis­tance re­gard­less.

“What you want is that they have a go and they fight. I think, tra­di­tion­ally in Eng­land, you have that,” he said. “Hope­fully that will be the case. Ev­ery­body will be un­der scru­tiny so you just want the teams like Everton to fight against us, Mid­dles­brough will fight against Liver­pool, Watford will fight against City.

“If you want to be the best league in the world, you should not even ques­tion that.”

Ar­se­nal’s Alexis Sanchez and Everton’s Romelu Lukaku both had very re­al­is­tic de­signs on the Golden Boot at the start of the week. But fol­low­ing Harry Kane’s quadru­ple at Le­ices­ter City on Thurs­day, which took his tally for the cam­paign to 26 goals, they now trail the Tottenham Hot­spur striker by three and two goals re­spec­tively.

Both Lukaku and mid­fielder Ross Barkley could be mak­ing farewell ap­pear­ances for Everton, who are bid­ding to com­plete their first league dou­ble over Ar­se­nal since the 1985-86 cam­paign.

Lukaku has pub­licly re­jected a new con­tract of­fer and Barkley is stalling over a deal he has been of­fered.

Everton man­ager Ron­ald Koe­man has en­joyed four vic­to­ries over Ar­se­nal since mov­ing to Eng­land with Southamp­ton in 2014, los­ing only once in six en­coun­ters, and he hopes his good run will con­tinue.

“We ap­proach this game like we do al­ways,” said the Dutch­man. “We want to fin­ish strongly.

“Ar­se­nal have a great team, some re­ally good in­di­vid­ual qual­ity, but we can beat them, as we showed at home. I have a good record as a man­ager against Ar­se­nal and let’s hope that we keep that.”

Ar­se­nal could miss out on a place in the Cham­pi­ons League for the first time in 20 sea­sons.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.