Skip to main content

Arsenal's 'fighting spirit' gives Wenger hope of 'Great Escape'

April 6, 2013 -- Updated 1928 GMT (0328 HKT)
Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky puts Arsenal 2-0 up against West Brom with his second goal on Saturday.
Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky puts Arsenal 2-0 up against West Brom with his second goal on Saturday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Arsene Wenger praises Arsenal's attitude after claiming fourth place in EPL
  • Saturday's 2-1 victory over West Brom raises hopes of a Champions League place
  • Arsenal battling with London rivals Chelsea and Tottenham for qualification
  • Title race is all but over ahead of Monday's Manchester derby clash

(CNN) -- For most European clubs, qualifying for the Champions League is a reason for great celebration.

For Arsene Wenger, if his Arsenal team can pull that off for a 16th successive season, then it will represent something of a "Great Escape" -- and strong déjà vu from the last campaign.

Saturday's 2-1 victory at West Brom lifted the London side up into the fourth and final qualifying place in England's Premier League, raising hopes among fans that they might yet again be watching top European football in 2013-14.

London rivals Chelsea can reclaim that coveted position with victory at home to Sunderland on Sunday -- and even go third if Tottenham lose against sixth-placed Everton.

And with runaway leaders Manchester United having all but sewn up a record-extending 20th title ahead of Monday's derby with second-placed champions City, the fight for minor placings is much more intriguing.

Read: Can Tottenham 'mind the gap?'

Gullit: Mourinho will return to Chelsea
Can Wenger still motivate Arsenal?

Failure to qualify will be a bitter blow for any one of the capital trio -- for Spurs after last season's heartbreak; for Chelsea's ruthless owner Roman Abramovich after yet more big-scale investment in the team; and for Wenger as it would raise the chances of his 17-year reign coming to an end.

Then there are the financial implications: just qualifying for the Champions League group stage this season was worth $11 million for each of the 32 teams, plus television money and a $1.3 million bonus for each match victory -- rising substantially until the final, where $13.5 million is on offer for next month's winner.

"It will be difficult and edgy until the end but the only thing I can say is that we are ready for a fight," Wenger said after two goals from Tomas Rosicky put Arsenal ahead against eighth-placed West Brom before defender Per Mertesacker's sending-off led to a penalty by James Morrison.

"We now we have one target -- to win our games. Then we do not have to look at Tottenham or at Chelsea. If we lose our games, you have always to look at the results of the others.

"That doesn't work in our job. You have to focus on you, and you win the games."

It happened last season when Tottenham blew a 10-point advantage to allow Arsenal into third place, and then missed out on the Champions League when fifth-placed Chelsea won the final in Munich.

Read: Di Canio - Reviled and revered

That gave Wenger a stay of execution, despite extending Arsenal's trophyless run to seven seasons, but this time the 63-year-old Frenchman has been under even more pressure after embarrassing exits to lower league sides in the domestic cup competitions and mixed EPL results.

Wenger: A good business man?
Wright: England team is overhyped

His team went out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage against Bayern Munich on away goals, though a defiant victory in Germany raised morale after a 3-1 mauling in the home leg.

"We have shown two aspects of our game today," Wenger said. "One that was very in control and with technical quality, and one that is less known -- fighting spirit, a resolute attitude and battling qualities that reflect well the spirit we have in our side.

"I believe that since November we have been on a good run in the Premier League. We have made 22 points out of the last 27 but our target is to continue to do that until the end of the season."

Read: Spurs fret over Bale blow

In Saturday's other results, Aston Villa moved out of the bottom three with a 3-1 win at Stoke, as Belgium striker Christian Benteke wrapped it up with his 15th league goal this season and 19th overall.

Reading stayed bottom on goal difference below Queens Park Rangers after losing 2-0 at home to new manager Nigel Adkins' former club Southampton -- who sacked him in January after a five-game unbeaten run.

Southampton climbed up to 11th place, seven points clear of the relegation zone, after a third successive win for new Argentine manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Ninth-placed Swansea came from behind to draw 2-2 with Norwich, as Spanish forward Michu scored his 17th league goal this season for the Welsh club before fellow striker Luke Moore earned a point.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
CNN Football Club
Be part of CNN's coverage of European Champions League matches and join the social debate.
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
The 1989 Hillsborough stadium tragedy, which claimed 96 lives, brought the red and the blue halves of Liverpool together.
CNN's Don Riddell says the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy has caused irreparable damage to the families of the 96 victims and the survivors.
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
The Champions league trophy stands on show during the draw for the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions league at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon on March 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO/FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Two European heavyweights will collide in the Champions League semifinals after Bayern Munich and Real Madrid were drawn together in Switzerland.
March 24, 2014 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
West Bromwich Albion's French striker Nicolas Anelka looks on during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United at The Hawthorns in West Bromwich, central England, on January 1, 2014.
England prides itself on being the home of football, but is the nation dysfunctional in dealing with racist abuse?
March 18, 2014 -- Updated 1339 GMT (2139 HKT)
In a city where football is a religion, Liverpool and England striker Daniel Sturridge is fast becoming a deity.
French former football player Zinedine Zidane reacts during the gala football 'Match Against Poverty' organized by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on March 4, 2014 in Bern.
Some of the biggest names in football lined up for a charity match, but CNN's Tom McGowan wonders if they can help beat poverty.
March 4, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
"Everyone is scared about war -- they are very nervous," former Ukraine football star Oleg Luzhny says of the rising tensions with Russia.
February 26, 2014 -- Updated 1807 GMT (0207 HKT)
Bayern Munich's present success rests on one key decision, chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge tells CNN.
February 18, 2014 -- Updated 0922 GMT (1722 HKT)
Neymar
"More than a Club." It is an image Barcelona has carefully cultivated, but could the controversial deal to sign Neymar sour that view?
February 1, 2014 -- Updated 1825 GMT (0225 HKT)
Affectionately known as "the wise man of Hortaleza," Luis Aragones -- who died aged 75 -- left the legacy of helping Spain's ascension to the top.
January 23, 2014 -- Updated 2118 GMT (0518 HKT)
Real Madrid hasn't won the European Champions League in over a decade, but the Spanish club is invincible in one field -- making money.
The naming of the world's best footballer is not all that it seems, says CNN's James Masters.
ADVERTISEMENT