Wenger expects top-four spot

Arsene Wenger has challenged Arsenal to hold their nerve as they look to chase down Chelsea and Spurs.

Last Updated: 31/03/13 at 14:04 Post Comment

Mikel Arteta celebrates his goal against Reading

Mikel Arteta celebrates his goal against Reading

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has challenged his side to hold their nerve as they look to chase down Chelsea and Tottenham in the race for Champions League qualification.

The Gunners chalked up a sixth win in the last eight Barclays Premier League games when they saw off relegation battlers Reading 4-1 at the Emirates Stadium in what was Nigel Adkins' first match in charge of the visitors.

With Chelsea losing at Southampton, the Gunners are now just two points behind the Blues, and four off third-placed Tottenham - on whom they hold a game in hand.

There are bound to be plenty more twists and turns over the run-in, and Wenger wants his side to focus on delivering their own top performances to secure the necessary final outcome at full time on May 19.

"We have the experience, we have done it before and is what we want to do again," said Wenger, whose side managed to overhaul Spurs last season and secure automatic qualification for the Champions League group stages.

"I am sure we will, but it demands a lot of dedication and nerves until the end."

Chelsea tackle Premier League leaders Manchester United in their FA Cup quarter-final replay tomorrow as part of a hectic fixture schedule in which they also will hope to progress in the Europa League.

Wenger feels having so many key games in quick succession could work either way - but will not get overly concerned with how anyone else is set to perform.

"It can be very positive if you are on a good run, and very negative if you are in bad form," he said.

"But let's just take care of the way we play, take care of our spirit and give it our all."

Ivory Coast forward Gervinho certainly did that against the Royals, firing the home side into an early lead in what was one of his best recent displays.

The 25-year-old has polarised opinion among Gunners fans since his £11million move from Lille in July 2011, with a string of inconsistent displays.

Wenger feels all of his current squad have what it takes to help the club move forwards, although he will look to strengthen the group in the summer.

"Gervinho did not play for his future [against Reading], he was just playing for his club, that is what every player does," said Wenger.

"We are a group of players who want to go for it, and to go for it together.

"Sometimes Gervinho plays, sometimes [Theo] Walcott, sometimes [Lukas] Podolski, but we can only do it if we all have the same target and do it together."

Reading - who slumped to the bottom of the table with yesterday's defeat - had defended resolutely for long spells, but their resistance was finally broken again at the start of the second half when Santi Cazorla curled in a delightful 20-yard effort with Olivier Giroud soon adding a third following a quick break by Gervinho.

Reading, though, netted a consolation through Hal Robson-Kanu before Mikel Arteta's penalty - converted after a trip by Adrian Mariappa on substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, when initial contact was probably outside the box - wrapped things up for the Gunners.

Full-back Nacho Monreal had injured his hip when clattering into the post as he slid to try to stop Robson-Kanu's header, but Wenger revealed the Spaniard, so impressive since his January deadline switch from Malaga, was "not bad" and should train again next week.

Walcott could be back for the trip to West Brom after his hip/thigh problem picked up on international duty with England, although midfielder Jack Wilshere is now likely to be pencilled in for a return against Norwich on April 13.

Despite Reading being seven points adrift of safety and looking destined for a swift return to the npower Championship, Adkins for one will not allow any negativity to set in ahead of next week's showdown with his former club Southampton at the Madejski Stadium.

"You have to be upbeat," he said.

"The result has gone, we have got games left in the division, we will focus on one at a time and that is always the most significant.

"The confidence and spirit have impressed me since I came in, and they need to remain high.

"We have got to keep improving, the lads have come a long way and we will give ourselves an opportunity in the next game."


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