Wenger confident Arsenal will return to Europe

14 April 2013 01:16

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is confident his side is on course to claim its usual place in the Champions League.

That was very much in jeopardy just a few weeks ago but Saturday's 3-1 Emirates Stadium victory over Norwich City saw the Gunners leapfrog London rivals Chelsea and Tottenham into third place in the Premier League table.

All four league fixtures, plus a Champions League game in Germany against Bayern Munich, have been won since Arsenal lost 2-1 at Tottenham on March 3, a result that left the Gunners trailing their north London rivals by seven points.

Wenger was quick to point out that only after 38 games will the table reveal its true meaning but was nonetheless delighted with his players, who over-turned a 1-0 deficit with just five minutes remaining against the Canaries.

"At the moment, the position is not important," he said.

"What is important for us is to keep our run going and the consistency of our wins. At the moment, the position has no real meaning. It is really tight, and the team who is the most consistent will get there.

"At the moment, we have that consistency, so we want to focus on that. We have another big game on Tuesday night and have a good opportunity that we want to take."

That is another home fixture, against Everton, and Arsenal will also have played at Fulham by the time Tottenham, who were not in action this weekend, play again.

The door is therefore very much open for Arsenal to finish above Tottenham, just as they did last season when their neighbours were also in a strong position going into the final band of fixtures. Chelsea are also involved in the Europa League semi-finals and an FA Cup run that has reached the semi-final stage.

"It is a question of nerves," Wenger added. "Today the win was a balance of nerves, quality and intelligence. We did not do anything stupid when we were 1-0 down and kept faith in our game. That side of the game will be important."

Norwich had been forced to soak up a fair amount of pressure before Michael Turner, the defender, headed them in front from Robert Snodgrass's free-kick in the 56th minute.

But they were just five minutes from completing a home-and-away double over the Gunners when referee Mike Jones, on the advice of a linesman, ruled that Norwich forward Kei Kamara had impeded Olivier Giroud while defending a corner.

The award of the corner itself had been extremely debatable as Snodgrass had not appeared to make contact before the ball went out but Wenger denied it was the sort of decision that always seems to go the way of the bigger clubs.

Giroud bundled home a second goal and substitute Lukas Podolski made it 3-1 in stoppage time with an effort Norwich were convinced should have been ruled out for offside.

Norwich finished the day in 14th place but are only four points better off than third-bottom Wigan Athletic, who have two games in hand.

Next Saturday's home game with Reading, the bottom club, is therefore of huge significance for the Canaries, who have now won just once in their last 16 Premier League games.

They must also play Stoke and Aston Villa, the two sides directly below them, and manager Chris Hughton knows that that trio of fixtures will decide their fate.

"Our season was not going to be about what happened here or at Old Trafford," he said. "We have five games now, three at home, so we need to get enough points to keep us where we want to be."

Source: AFP