Football: Wenger aiming for second

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger celebrates after the game against Manchester City.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger celebrates after the game against Manchester City.PHOTO: REUTERS

Gunners manager laments blowing shot at league win, still wants to finish above Spurs

LONDON • Amid Arsenal's turbulent season and manager Arsene Wenger's uncertain future, the Gunners could still seal second place in the Premier League if they beat bottom club Aston Villa today, but only if rivals Tottenham lose at relegated Newcastle.

The Frenchman, whose current contract is due to expire at the end of next season, admitted he would see how next term pans out before deciding on his next move and the same no doubt applies to the club, although the 66-year-old enjoys strong backing from the board.

A repeat of this season's frustration will leave Wenger in a similar position, but it is a measure of the consistency he has brought to the club that a likely third-place finish in the Premier League is viewed as a disappointment.

But the main difference this season is the widely-held belief this was the best chance Arsenal had of winning the title in years.

"It was a strange season. We've finished the season disappointed because we felt we had the chance to win the championship," Wenger said.

"Of course we are frustrated but Leicester have had consistent results and the rest of the division have had ups and downs.

"Everybody else can be frustrated but Leicester only lost three games this season. Nobody else had the same consistency. That's why you have to say they have been absolutely remarkable and you have to congratulate them."

The possibility of finishing behind bitter rivals Tottenham for the first time in Wenger's 20-year tenure also hurts.

"We want to finish as high as possible and, if possible, in front of Spurs," Wenger added.

"We want to finish second, because Leicester are now champions, so we will fight until the end.

"If we are not second, then hopefully we will finish third, but ideally we want to finish in front of Spurs."

Arsenal will be without England forward Danny Welbeck, who has been ruled out for nine months after picking up a knee injury at Manchester City last weekend.

Villa will look to end their dismal season with just their fourth victory in the league, having had their relegation mathematically sealed almost a month ago.

Their players will depart for their holidays after the final whistle at the Emirates Stadium not knowing who will own the club or who will manage the team next season.

But caretaker boss Eric Black has ordered the players not to repeat the mistakes of this campaign.

"The only discussions I have had with them is 'try to ensure that you're never part of anything like this again'," he said."It's about personal pride and your career so they have to learn from what's happened .



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 15, 2016, with the headline 'Wenger aiming for second'. Print Edition | Subscribe