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Wenger happy with team's progress
Published : 09 May 2009 13:58:10
The Gunners head into Sunday's clash with Chelsea at Emirates Stadium with just three Premier League games to play before heading off on their summer break left to look back on another season which failed to deliver silverware. Too many defeats during the opening weeks of the league meant a title bid never really got off the ground, although an impressive unbeaten run since November 22 has seen them secure fourth place ahead of Aston Villa and with it another crack at Europe's elite club competition. Despite their shortcomings, Wenger can point to some areas of relative success. A young Arsenal side impressed as they reached the last eight of the Carling Cup, while the first-team regulars improved on their showing in the Champions League - not conceding a goal at home until eventually being outclassed by holders Manchester United over two legs in the semi-finals - while it was Chelsea who ended chances of an FA Cup final appearance at the end of the season with victory at Wembley last month. Nevertheless, the critics will point to the cold reality of another barren season in terms of trophies - the last coming in the shape of the FA Cup in 2005. Wenger, though, insists the commitment to the Arsenal cause continues to burn as fiercely as ever. "I feel we had to rebuild the team after last season, and that we had a stuttering start. There were 14 games in the championship, with five defeats," recalled the Arsenal manager, who saw Mathieu Flamini, veteran midfielder Gilberto and winger Alex Hleb all leave during the summer. "However, since we have played 21 games with zero defeats. That means the team is developing well and has gone forwards. "We have managed also to go to the semi-finals of the Champions League and of the FA Cup, at the same time we did not lose one game in the Premier League. "The facts show the team has gone hugely forward." The Gunners boss, though, accepts medals on the table is how many will ultimately pass judgement. "Of course, we do not forget that we are here to win things," Wenger said. "For me, the two main trophies are the Premier League and the Champions League, which we did not win - but we are on the right way and did as well as we could. "The only thing I know on my side with my staff is we worked extremely hard - harder than ever this year. "At the end of the day, we tried very hard to get the best out of the team. "If it is not good enough, it is not good enough, we can accept that - but trust me, there was no fault of commitment on our side." Russian Andrey Arshavin, who was cup-tied in Europe following his January move from Zenit St Petersburg, is struggling to shake off a virus ahead of tomorrow's match. That is likely to mean winger Samir Nasri retaining his place in the starting XI. The Frenchman, signed from Marseille in the summer, has settled well into his first season in English football. It was his two goals which helped sink United in the Premier League clash at Emirates Stadium back in early November. Nasri, 21, feels the Gunners can end the campaign on a high and make the most of Chelsea's own midweek Champions League exit, controversially to a late Barcelona goal at Stamford Bridge. "We can still clinch third place, especially after Chelsea's disappointment," Nasri told Arsenal TV Online. "Although Chelsea lost as well, they conceded so late and that would have been very difficult to take for them. "I hope that we will be going into the game in a bit better shape in terms of morale and can get a win for our fans, which will help us to clinch third place and direct qualification for the Champions League." Arsenal v Chelsea. Click here to bet.