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Win keeps us alive, claims Wenger
Published : 04 Apr 2010 10:57:00
Arsene Wenger says Arsenal's title chances would have been "finished" if they had not produced a dramatic stoppage-time winner against Wolves. Denmark striker Nicklas Bendtner came off the bench to head a crucial goal which keeps the Gunners in touch as the race for Premier League supremacy enters a thrilling conclusion. After Chelsea went back to the top of the table with their controversial 2-1 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford, Wenger knew there was little margin for error. The Gunners - who were outplayed by Barcelona for large spells during a thrilling 2-2 draw on Tuesday night - made seven changes to their starting XI as Wenger clearly had one eye on next week's trip to the Nou Camp. However, despite dominating the home side could not find a breakthrough, as visiting goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann was in top form. Wolves defended bravely and looked to have overcome the sending-off of captain Karl Henry for a rash challenge on Tomas Rosicky before Bendtner's late, late intervention sent the home crowd into delirium. "It keeps us in the title race, yes. If we had not won, it would have been finished," said Wenger. "You know if you are five points behind Chelsea with five games to go, you can forget it, but with three points it is feasible. "We have a difficult programme but they have a difficult programme as well." Wenger continued: "It was important to forget Barcelona for 24 hours and focus on today's game, and that was not easy. But we did it well - I think we had a good focus. "We were a bit jaded physically, but we kept going and we were serious, we didn't make a mistake at the back. "In the end we got a deserved victory against a resilient Wolves team who had a great goalkeeper. "We kept it late, as with many times, but overall we deserved to win the game." Bendtner had also struck a crucial late winner at Hull. Wenger said: "Bendtner is a player who can take critics. He responds well to it and has that strength. "I believe he is improving, which is not unusual for a young player at 22. "There is still room for improvement, but he is becoming more of a team player and is working hard. It is all positive." Wenger feels Arsenal must win all of their remaining matches to stand a chance of winning the league. "I calculated how many games we have to play and how far we can go if we win all our games, 86 (points), so I decided that 86 will do it," he quipped. Arsenal will head to Barcelona without key men like captain Cesc Fabregas, out with a broken leg. Wenger, though, maintains all hope is not lost. "We have to raise above the impression Barcelona left on us in the first part of the match, to have a game plan and stick to it," he said. "I believe we have to be audacious and not hide. "I do not deny in the first part of the game that Barcelona were over-dominant, if you look at the chances we created, we had some good ones." Wenger, meanwhile, felt there was no malicious intent in the challenge from Henry, who went through the back of Rosicky. Wolves boss Mick McCarthy believes his captain had been somewhat unfortunate to have been shown a straight red card, with referee Andre Marriner perhaps influenced by the reaction of the Arsenal squad. "It was a bad decision, because Karl got the ball," McCarthy said. "We were not kicking the Arsenal players, but there were quite a few players around the referee helping him make his decision. "We were doing all the tackling and blocks that we had to before we went down to 10 men, but when you go down to 10 men it makes life pretty damn difficult. "They had loads of chances and could have scored before, but having got to the stage of the game that we did, I have no doubt it is fatigue that has cost us." McCarthy is confident his squad have enough about them to stay up. "If honesty, endeavour and teamwork keep the team in the league then we have got a good chance," he said.