Monday 24 October 2016

Wenger worried about top-four hopes after Arsenal slip up again

Published 17/04/2016 | 19:36

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was unhappy to see his side drop points at home to Crystal Palace
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was unhappy to see his side drop points at home to Crystal Palace

Manager Arsene Wenger says Arsenal should be looking over their shoulder rather than clinging to the ever-distant dream of the Premier League title after a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace.

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The Gunners' hopes of 20th consecutive top-four finish remain in the balance after Yannick Bolasie's late strike cancelled out Alexis Sanchez's first-half opener at the Emirates Stadium.

It leaves Wenger's men in fourth place, behind Manchester City on goal difference and 13 points adrift of leaders Leicester with five games to play.

Fifth-placed Manchester United are four points behind, with West Ham also lurking, leaving the Gunners' hopes of an 18th successive season in the Champions League under threat.

"Honestly, after the game today I'm not in that kind of mood to dream about the championship," Wenger said.

"I am more in the kind of mood to repair the mental damage and prepare for the next game (on Thursday against West Brom).

"It's much more about that and to look behind us, because everybody is playing well and winning games.

"For us it could be a fight until the end to get the place in the top four.

"If we can do more, we will do more, but let's not dream and focus on the next game."

The lack of incision to find a second goal left Wenger with a feeling of deja vu and frustration.

"I'm very, very disappointed," Wenger added.

"You have to sometimes win 1-0 and this was one of these days.

"We had 70 per cent time with the ball and we didn't make enough of it.

"We lacked accuracy in our final ball and change of pace, didn't play with enough freedom and flow.

"In the end we got caught with basically a unique shot on goal from Crystal Palace. They played deep, they defended well and they got us on the break.

"That's the story of the game, even if it's very frustrating."

As Arsenal toiled in attack, Palace looked increasingly threatening on the break and former Gunner Emmanuel Adebayor shrugged off the jeers to tee-up Bolasie, whose 20-yard shot Petr Cech should have saved.

"We gave a goal away that was avoidable. That's the regret of the day," added Wenger, who felt the previous week's 3-3 draw at West Ham had affected his side's confidence.

Palace boss Alan Pardew reckoned at 1-0 the visitors always had a chance and rued the moment substitute Wilfried Zaha lost control, rather than fed Adebayor for what would have been the winner.

"If he has one better touch there, he's got Ade in the middle to finish the game off," Pardew said.

"I've seen games at the Emirates where you can exploit that last period of the game, if you're in the game.

"I genuinely felt after the equaliser that it might be us that won it.

"They over commit at times. I admire that. That's not a deficiency in their game plan or their manager, but an opportunity for you (the opposition)."

Palace moved to 39 points, but stayed 16th. Norwich are eight points behind, with Sunderland and Newcastle nine and 11 points adrift respectively.

Pardew refused to categorically say Palace were safe ahead of Wednesday's league trip to Manchester United and Sunday's FA Cup semi-final with Watford, but was looking up the standings.

"It's going to be difficult for two of those teams below us to get 40 points," added Pardew, who will make changes at Old Trafford to give players an opportunity to earn a Wembley start.

"I think we're a mid-table team. We need to prove that. I'll be disappointed if we finish lower than 15th."

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