Gunners still in the top-three mix, says Wenger

LONDON • Sixth-placed Arsenal can still finish in the Premier League's top three, manager Arsene Wenger said yesterday, if they win their remaining games starting with tomorrow's North London derby at Tottenham Hotspur.

And with second-placed Tottenham also chasing a win at White Hart Lane as they look to stay in touch with Chelsea, four points clear at the top, few would bet on the match ending in a draw.

"I expect an open match, a committed match," Wenger said. "A match with high pace, but there could be goals in there because both teams play positive football."

Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham hold the best home record in the league this season, with 15 victories in 17 games.

Striker Harry Kane scored a second-half equaliser to rescue a point in the reverse fixture at Arsenal last November.

Arsenal trail third-placed Liverpool by six points with two games in hand, and are also behind both Manchester City and Manchester United, but Wenger believes his team could leapfrog all three.

POSITIVE FOOTBALL

I don't think that the top three is decided. We have an opportunity to be in there if we win our games so we do not have to speculate on who is in and not in.

ARSENE WENGER, Arsenal manager, still has faith his team can salvage what has been a season of turmoil.

"I don't think that the top three is decided," said the Arsenal manager, who will be taking charge of his 50th North London encounter. "We have an opportunity to be in there if we win our games so we do not have to speculate on who is in and not in.

"The simple thing about being in our position is we don't need to calculate, we just need to give everything and win our games."

With Tottenham on a run of eight league wins, Wenger conceded that his side would be the outside bet tomorrow.

"It's certainly one of the few times where, if you look at people's opinions, Spurs are favourites," he said. "It looks a bit like that but it doesn't matter too much to me.

"But let's make sure that the best happens and give absolutely everything to make sure that we finish in a very strong way our season."

Wenger is hopeful defender Laurent Koscielny could recover from a knee injury in time for the derby, but he ruled out the other half of his central defensive pairing, Shkodran Mustafi, for two weeks with a thigh problem.

Spurs will start the game knowing the outcome of Chelsea's tie at Everton, and the gap could close to one point should results go their way.

Manager Mauricio Pochettino is certain his players will bring the same intensity to the derby, regardless of the Chelsea result.

"We played the day after they lost to Crystal Palace and it didn't affect our preparation," said Pochettino. "The players are so focused and our energy must try to be on giving our best. We need a win to keep fighting for the title."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2017, with the headline 'Gunners still in the top-three mix, says Wenger'. Print Edition | Subscribe