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Wenger relieved to control Euro fight

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18 May 2013 00:46:57

Wenger relieved to control Euro fight

Arsene Wenger insists he would have been happy to see Arsenal's Champions League hopes go to the final day when his side appeared out of the race for a top four finish earlier this season.

Wenger's side trailed Tottenham by seven points in March, but now play their final fixture at Newcastle on Sunday knowing victory will guarantee they finish at least fourth and secure a spot in the Champions League qualification rounds.

Should Chelsea fail to beat Everton, they could yet finish third, possibly via a play-off if the two clubs finish level on points, goal difference and goals scored.

The uncertainty ensures there will be some nerves at St James' Park. But Gunners boss Wenger said: "I know for a long time that for us, when we were seven points behind, we would all be happy that it goes to the last day.

"We are in a position where nobody expected us to be. We have our destiny in our hands, our fate in our hands and that's what you fight for in the game.

"It is a game that we will now want to win but at least we fought back to be in a position where we master our own fate."

Asked about the prospect of a play-off with Chelsea, he added: "I would fancy that. A play-off exists only if win our game, so let's win the game and see what happens.

"The biggest task is to win the game and not speculate too much on what happens after because the first compulsory thing we face is to win the game on Sunday."

Wenger also revealed he is close to signing Auxerre forward Yaya Sanogo.

"We are advanced with him, but it is not done," he said. "I am very confident.

"He is a young striker who is promising, and has a big talent."

Arsenal's Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta is set to miss the game with a calf problem suffered against Wigan in midweek, while Wenger remains unsure whether Jack Wislhere is ready to complete a full 90 minutes, with the England midfielder due to have an ankle operation at the end of the season.

However, French striker Olivier Giroud returns for the Gunners after serving a three-match suspension.

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has challenged his players to end a turbulent season on a high by playing a part in frustrating Arsenal's Champions League hopes.

Pardew's side have conceded nine goals in their last two home games, and were humbled 7-3 at the Emirates Stadium in December.

They only sealed their Premier League future with victory last weekend at QPR, but could finish as high as 10th if they inflict the Gunners' first defeat on Tyneside since 2006.

"It's very important to go out by putting in a good performance for our fans," Pardew said.

"The last couple of home games have been tough for us, and there's something riding on the game for Arsenal which I think is good for us."

Pardew was forced to clarify his comments after suggesting tongue in cheek this week that he didn't mind if his side suffered a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Wenger's men.

"I've had a few Tottenham fans remind me about that comment, but it was made purely out of relief after the victory at QPR, and was definitely tongue in cheek," he added.

Steve Harper, the 38-year-old goalkeeper who will leave in the summer, plays his 199th and final game for Newcastle as he brings the curtain down on a near two-decade spell at the club.

"He's been a great servant of this club and an absolutely superb professional," Pardew said.


AFP

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