Wenger sees only positives

Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring Arsenal's second goal in driving rain to complete a 2-0 win over Premier League bottom side Sunderland. The Gunners may miss out on the Champions League even if they beat Everton.
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring Arsenal's second goal in driving rain to complete a 2-0 win over Premier League bottom side Sunderland. The Gunners may miss out on the Champions League even if they beat Everton.PHOTO: REUTERS

He says Arsenal have won more games than last year as Sanchez's brace keeps them in fifth place

LONDON • In the mad world of football, Arsene Wenger is in contention to be the Premier League's manager of the month after leading Arsenal to wins over Manchester United, Southampton, Stoke and now Sunderland - when they scored 10 goals and conceded one.

Yet, May could also mark the greatest humiliation of his Arsenal career if they fail to qualify for the Champions League and with the fans turning their backs on him in increasing numbers.

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

His side kept alive their faint hopes of qualifying for Europe's elite football club competition, as a double from Alexis Sanchez clinched a 2-0 win over relegated Sunderland on Tuesday night.

The Gunners' sixth victory in their last seven games leaves them fifth, 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.

"We want to get in there, let's give ourselves every chance," he said. "If you have only a 1 per cent chance, you still have to give everything. "

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 supporters.

He 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."

  • RACE FOR FOURTH PLACE: PERMUTATIONS

  • Arsenal would be involved in a winner-take-all match at Villa Park for the fourth and final Champions League spot if a bizarre set of results occur on the last day of the season on Sunday.

    These are the scenarios under which Arsenal and Liverpool could be deadlocked on points and goal difference as well as number of goals scored after all tie-breakers are applied.


    ARSENAL v LIVERPOOL PLAY-OFF IF...

    • Arsenal 1 Everton 1

    • Liverpool 0 Middlesbrough 2

    (or 2-2 and 1-3, 3-3 and 2-4, etc)


    ARSENAL v MAN CITY PLAY-OFF IF ...

    • Arsenal 1 Everton 0

    • Watford 4 Man City 0

    (or 2-0 and 4-1, 3-0 and 4-2, etc) and Liverpool beat Middlesbrough


    MAN CITY v LIVERPOOL PLAY-OFF FOR THIRD IF...

    • Watford 3 Man City 3

    • Liverpool 3 Middlesbrough 0

    (or 4-4 and 4-1, 5-5 and 5-2 etc)


    THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON

Asked if he and the players were affected by the many empty seats at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday, Wenger said he was not surprised by the low attendance.

"No, it's Tuesday night against Sunderland, everyone expects us to win," he said. "I didn't count the number of empty seats. We do our job, we have shown that again."

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

"We shouldn't have lost at West Brom (1-3 on March 18)and Palace (0-3 on April 10), that is where we lost our chance," he said. "At Man City (1-2 on Dec 18) as well we were really unlucky with some decisions."

Sunderland manager David Moyes took umbrage at Wenger's suggestion this week that Arsenal's top-four rivals had 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," he said. "I don't think Sunderland did that tonight. We had a go."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2017, with the headline 'Wenger sees only positives'. Print Edition | Subscribe