Wenger plays down finishing behind Spurs

LONDON • Arsene Wenger has suggested supporters should retain a sense of realism if Arsenal finish below Tottenham Hotspur for the first time under his stewardship, with the manager's faith in his squad likely to result in limited business in the transfer market this summer.

Arsenal could be 16 points behind the Premier League leaders, Leicester City, when they kick off against Crystal Palace today as they attempt to eat into the six-point advantage enjoyed by second-placed Spurs.

The last time Tottenham, who play at Stoke on Monday, finished above their north London rivals was in 1995, when the teams finished seventh and 12th respectively.

The Frenchman is hoping a pristine end to the season could mean his side will be involved in the title pursuit. For all that he doffed his cap to Leicester's remarkable campaign, he feels finishing below their neighbours would not necessarily signify a definitive shift in the balance of power in the capital.

"First of all, we are not behind Spurs yet," he said. "Anyway, Tottenham have been 18 years behind us and they've survived. So let's be realistic.

PUTTING IT IN PERSPECTIVE

First of all, we are not behind Spurs yet. Anyway, Tottenham have been 18 years behind us and they've survived. So let's be realistic.

ARSENE WENGER, Arsenal manager, when asked if finishing behind arch-rivals Spurs would be devastating for the Gunners.

"If Leicester win on Sunday it does not affect us, it does not change the fact that we absolutely have to win our game against Palace. Let's prepare for that, no matter what the result is.

Arsenal are expected to sign Borussia Moenchengladbach captain Granit Xhaka this summer with £35 million (S$67.5 million) being sought for the Switzerland international. Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini will leave under freedom of their contracts and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could be sold, with further eye-catching incoming business likely to be limited.

Wenger said: "If you look at the top three teams, you will see they have not changed their team a lot. We have to strengthen our squad but it's not obvious to find the players despite the money the English clubs will have. We are already working but we have to find the players and that is not easy.

"You cannot dismiss that the players are young - Alex Iwobi is 19, Mohamed Elneny is 23, Francis Coquelin 24, and they will be stronger next year but you need to keep a core of players and strengthen where we can. The team is going the right way," he added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 17, 2016, with the headline 'Wenger plays down finishing behind Spurs'. Print Edition | Subscribe