Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger may be closing on his first trophy in nine years after reaching the FA Cup final last weekend, but he has admitted that his desire to finish in the top four of the Premier League is still his driving ambition in the coming weeks.
Wenger’s Gunners head into Tuesday’s home game against West Ham looking to gather ground on Roberto Martinez’s in-form Everton side, after they edged Arsenal out of the Premier League top four with a win at Sunderland last weekend.
Arsenal’s hopes of a top-four finish is dependent on Everton slipping up in one of the final five matches and Wenger has stated it is not a position he is comfortable with.
“It’s vital to me to make the top four,” Wenger told reporters at the club’s London Colney training base. “I want this club to play in the Champions League.
“What will be an advantage is our desire to play in this competition because we love the Champions League, and just to imagine how much we love it will help us to achieve it. I would like them rather to concentrate on the pleasure to be in it [than worry about not qualifying].
“You don’t go backwards [in the Europa League], but you want to play with the top teams. It is vital for the young players as well to be the in Champions League. You learn more by playing against Bayern or Barcelona or Real Madrid than if you play in the Europa League, that’s for sure.”
Wenger suggested his team’s heavy defeats against Liverpool, Chelsea and Everton in recent weeks have taken their toll on his team as he prepares for one final push in his bid to maintain his record of qualifying for the Champions League over the past 16 years.
“We had a difficult schedule, and today the rate of the negative results and negative aspects of the results in the big games is massive,” he stated. “To deal with that is very difficult. When you have a succession of big games one after the other, if you lose the first one, you are always in trouble.
“The mental part is so important in the physical recovery. The fact we come out in a positive mood will help us to recover. I believe physically we can cope with it.”
Wenger again claimed that his lengthy injury list was the prime culprit for the club’s disappointing run of form in recent weeks, as the likes of Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott have all been confined to the treatment room.
“It’s difficult to predict you will have Ozil, Walcott, Wilshere out at the same time and Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil and Walcott out. It’s too many,” added Wenger, whose side played a draining and ultimately successful FA Cup semifinal against Wigan that went all the way to a penalty shootout at Wembley last Saturday.
“Fatigue is an issue, but it’s difficult to predict how you will be three days later after an FA Cup semifinal.”
Tomas Rosicky and Laurent Koscielny are close to a return to the Arsenal lineup after recovering from their recent injuries.