herald

Tuesday 19 September 2017

Wenger gunning for limping squad to finish on high

Arsene Wenger accepts his Arsenal squad have been on a "downer" since their Champions League exit to Barcelona, but maintained the Gunners can lift themselves to secure third place with victory over Fulham tomorrow.

An injury-hit Arsenal have picked up just one point from four league games since being taken apart by Lionel Messi in the Nou Camp.

Successive away defeats at Tottenham and then Wigan, when leading 2-0 with just 10 minutes left, saw any title hopes evaporate, before also losing at Blackburn on Monday.

Indeed, victory tomorrow for Europa League finalists Fulham -- who could well field a much-changed side -- could see arch-rivals Tottenham claim third spot and with it automatic entry into the Champions League.

Wenger called on his side to produce one final vintage Arsenal display.

"I know this match comes after a few disappointing results," he said.

"Since we have gone out of the Champions League there was a little downer in our heads, but we have enough pride and quality to finish the season well and to secure the third place."

Wenger continued: "The concern is that at the moment we have many, many players out and as well that we just lost the games without any real logic. We lost at Wigan, we lost at Blackburn on controversial things which are difficult to accept -- but we have to live with it and we have to secure the third place which will guarantee us the Champions League spot."

Wenger believes the Gunners should have already been secure of finishing in the top three once again. "I am surprised, because I thought we would make the points before now," the Arsenal boss said. "But I knew that we had difficult games and that there could be something at stake.

"However, it is not too bad -- it is good to have something at stake and we have an opportunity to go for third place."

Theo Walcott feels Arsenal owe their supporters a big performance in their final match of what has been another season of frustration at Emirates Stadium. The England World Cup hopeful called for the team to take the "next step" as they look to last the distance when the battles start all over again come August.

"We want to end on a high and that is important for the fans too. Then everybody can be ready for next season," Walcott said.

"When a lot of big teams come to the Emirates, it has not been a fortress at all. We have been brushed aside at times and next year we need to go one step further."

Walcott added: "We have not won matches we should have and we have not guaranteed third place yet, which is very disappointing.

"We have to guarantee third because it is very important for the club -- you don't want to qualify fourth at all."

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