FEAR OF LOSING IT ALL

Wenger gives up on title, worries about fourth Champs League spot

Crystal Palace's Yannick Bolasie celebrates after scoring against Arsenal during their league match at the Emirates. Arsene Wenger has admitted that the EPL title is beyond his reach after the 1-1 draw.
Crystal Palace's Yannick Bolasie celebrates after scoring against Arsenal during their league match at the Emirates. Arsene Wenger has admitted that the EPL title is beyond his reach after the 1-1 draw. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Arsene Wenger has written off Arsenal's hopes of winning the title and admitted that they are looking over their shoulders in the race to qualify for the Champions League after drawing 1-1 with Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal trail Leicester City by 13 points with five games left after they were denied by Yannick Bolasie's late equaliser, and Wenger has lowered his sights.

They are fourth after falling below Manchester City on goal difference and lead Manchester United by four points.

Yet, fourth will not be good enough for the Gunners' bid to secure Champions League qualification for a 19th successive season if City win Europe's elite club competition and Liverpool lift the Europa League trophy.

"Honestly, after the game today, I am not in that kind of mood to dream about the championship, I am more in the kind of mood to repair the mental damage and prepare for the next game," said the Arsenal manager, whose side led the league in January.

  • 71%

    Arsenal dominated possession at home but failed to convert their chances against Crystal Palace.

"It is much more about and to look behind us because everybody is behind us and winning games and for us it could be a fight until the end to get the place in the top four. If we can do more, we can do more but let's not dream and focus on the next game."

Arsenal face West Bromwich Albion on Thursday at the Emirates, where they have taken just eight points from their past six matches.

Sunday's match was a microcosm of their season - they dominated, enjoying 71 per cent possession, but failed to win.

Alexis Sanchez headed home Danny Welbeck's pass on the strike of half-time against a Palace side content to sit back and defend deep. But chances went begging for Arsenal before Bolasie hit the hosts on the break nine minutes from time.

Palace manager Alan Pardew revealed that he knew Arsenal would be vulnerable to conceding late on.

"I've seen games at the Emirates where you can exploit the last period of the game if you are in the game," he said. "After the equaliser, I thought it might be us that won it, if anyone.

"They are always pushing for the win and you have to admire that. They commit their full-backs high and wide and they win a lot of games in the last moments.

"Of course they always have that ability but I say to teams if you can stay in the game then at the end there will be opportunities because they over-commit at times. That's not a deficiency in the game plan or a deficiency of the manager - it is to be admired. But of course it gives you a chance as well."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2016, with the headline 'Wenger gives up on title, worries about fourth Champs League spot'. Print Edition | Subscribe