Wenger focused on third-place finish

07 May 2010 01:10
Arsene Wenger accepts Europa League finalists Fulham may already have their minds "elsewhere", but insists Arsenal will be fully focused.

Cottagers boss Roy Hodgson has made a habit of utilising his full squad during their fairytale European run, which is set to climax in Hamburg with a clash against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night.

Indeed, Fulham had requested their final domestic game be brought forwards by 24 hours to allow them extra recovery time ahead of the biggest match in the history of the west London club, which was rejected by the Premier League to protect the integrity of the competition.

Arsenal have seen their title challenge fade in the last few weeks following successive away defeats at Tottenham and then Wigan, when leading 2-0 with just 10 minutes left, before also losing at Blackburn on Monday.

Indeed, victory for Fulham at Emirates Stadium on Sunday could see arch-rivals Spurs claim third spot and with it automatic entry into the Champions League.

Wenger, though, has called for his own team - likely to start with fit-again Andrey Arshavin and Robin van Persie - to make sure they end the campaign on a positive note.

"Their focus could be elsewhere, but we are in a situation where we do not want to focus on any weakness from Fulham," said Wenger, speaking to the Arsenal Podcast on the club's official website.

"Let's focus on our performance and make sure we turn up with the right attitude and I believe we will get the point or three points that we need."

Wenger can understand the dilemma now facing Hodgson, who made some nine changes in the game at Everton, which they only lost in stoppage time, ahead of the semi-final second leg.

"I have been in that position before a UEFA Cup Final I played with Monaco. I rotated the team," the Arsenal manager recalled.

"Fulham have played many games and credit to them because they survived [in the Premier League].

"But what is funny, is I had exactly the same situation and you get the injuries when you are nearly over the line."

At one stage it looked as if Arsenal could well be fighting to the very last kick for the championship, only to fail to deliver when it really mattered after going out of the Champions League to Barcelona.

Theo Walcott accepts the Gunners should have already wrapped up third place, and 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 have not won matches we should have and we have not guaranteed third place yet, which is very disappointing," the England World Cup hopeful said.

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

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

Walcott continued to Arsenal TV Online: "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. "

Source: Team_Talk