Arsene Wenger: Arsenal’s top four spot is under threat
Arsene Wenger thinks Arsenal can repeat their recent history of responding strongly to Champions League elimination, but acknowledged that a 20th consecutive top-four finish could yet come under threat.
Arsenal travel to Everton on Saturday for a crucial Premier League game, just three days after losing to Barcelona in the Champions League.
It’s the sixth straight year that Arsenal have gone out in the round of 16, but they have often finished the season strongly after that.
Last year, they won their last eight league games, and the Gunners may need a similar run if they are to close an 11-point gap on Premier League leaders Leicester City.
“Let’s continue that record because at the moment we are even more in need of continuing that good record. But I believe the team is up for it,” Wenger said. “We have to go step by step. Let’s get back to winning habits first, and that starts tomorrow. If we win tomorrow, we’ll see.
“The only way to achieve something special is to be realistic and humble enough to first deal with Everton.”
Wenger is refusing to give up on the Premier League title, but also warned that teams like Manchester United and West Ham could also still overtake the Gunners in the top four.
“It’s very tight, but I believe that first of all the Premier League is far from over. But we have as well to look behind us, because things can change very quickly,” he said. “We want of course to move forward, but I’m conscious that our position even where we are now is not secure.”
Arsenal have just one win in their last eight games — against a second-string Hull side in the FA Cup.
Anything but three points at Everton would probably end any hope Arsenal have of competing for the title, as Leicester could make their lead even bigger before the international break, but Wenger doesn’t even want to contemplate such a scenario.
“If and if and if and if. In the press you are always in the situation where you have to predict the worst. We are in a position where we have to hope for the best,” he said. “I agree that a negative result would be very bad for us. But we focus now on having a positive result. Now is the time for us to produce the result we want.”
To do that, Arsenal will have to deal with in-form striker Romelu Lukaku, whose size and strength could easily cause problems for the Gunners’ back four.
Wenger has said that Arsenal started scouting Lukaku when he was still playing in his native Belgium, and he has been impressed with the 22-year-old’s continued development.
“Year after year he is better. His finishing is better, his technical links with players are better. He is promised a big career, because that’s always a sign when a guy year after year has better numbers.”
However, after facing Barcelona’s high-powered attack, Arsenal aren’t too intimidated by Lukaku.
“Look we just played against Messi, Neymar and Suarez,” Wenger said with a laugh. “I think our defenders get encouragement from the defensive performance we produced against Barcelona.”