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Wenger hails Gunners' spirit for third-place scrap

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Arsene Wenger. Photo: Getty Images

Arsene Wenger. Photo: Getty Images

Arsene Wenger. Photo: Getty Images

Arsene Wenger believes that the battle to finish third this season in the Premier League has now opened up into a five-way fight between Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle and Liverpool.

Tottenham's third straight Premier League defeat on Saturday means that Arsenal can move to within one point of their north London neighbours tonight with a victory against Newcastle.

Wenger, though, says that Newcastle cannot be discounted from the race for a Champions League place, while Chelsea's weekend win against Stoke City means that they are now also within four points of Tottenham.

"We want to finish as high as we can," said Wenger. "Is it about Tottenham? It will be difficult because we know that we face a massive battle there with Tottenham, with Chelsea, with Newcastle and maybe Liverpool.

"Until the end of the season every game will be a massive one for us. What is at stake is to be in the top four, if possible in the top three, but it will be difficult for everybody."

Tonight's match is the reverse fixture of the opening game of the season when Arsenal drew 0-0 at St James' Park.

The draw will be best remembered for the controversial dismissal of Gervinho, playing his first game in English football, after he raised his hand to Joey Barton.

"Gervinho was shocked because he felt he didn't do a lot," said Wenger. "I think he learned his lesson in the first game and it's better than after 20. It's better to know what you are facing."

On the subject of exaggerating contact, Wenger also pointed his finger at Luis Suarez for the way he won Liverpool's penalty against Arsenal last week.

"It annoys me but it can happen with one of my players as well," said Wenger. "Suarez got the penalty last week. It was no penalty. Nobody touched him. Where they go overboard is that nobody touched him."

Arsenal are aiming for a fifth successive league victory, and Wenger is pleased with the spirit that has allowed his team to come from behind to beat both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, and beat Milan 3-0 in the Champions League tie six days ago to come within a goal of cancelling out a 4-0 first-leg deficit.

The spirit in the squad was as good as it had been for some time, he revealed. "For consistency of top results, yes, because for a long time, we didn't put one big result after the other, and (for the) quality of our games as well," he said.

"We scored seven against Blackburn, five against Tottenham, three against Milan and they are good teams, so overall we have a flow in our game because maybe the confidence is higher." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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