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'Mathematically it has to happen once' - Finishing above Spurs never Wenger's target

It is the stick Arsenal fans have used to beat Tottenham with for two decades, but Arsene Wenger claims league ranking is not important.

Arsene Wenger pictured during today's game.
Arsene Wenger pictured during today's game.

ARSENE WENGER HAS insisted being out of the title race is a bigger disappointment than finally finishing a Premier League campaign behind local rivals Tottenham.

The Gunners have fared better than Spurs in every season under the Frenchman’s management, but they will be unable to do so this term following a 2-0 loss in the final north London derby at the old White Hart Lane on Sunday.

Tottenham have not bested their neighbours in the standings since 1994-95, but Mauricio Pochettino has broken that streak as his energetic young side challenge leaders Chelsea for top spot, leaving Wenger to offer his grudging congratulations.

“Well done to them,” he told Sky Sports.

“When you start the championship, the target is not to finish above Spurs, it’s to win the championship. The biggest disappointment is not to be in the fight for the championship.

In 20 years, it happened once. Mathematically it has to happen once. We are not happy with it. But we are not comparing ourselves to Spurs, we’re comparing ourselves to where we want to be.”

Wenger acknowledged his team were second best, as goals from Dele Alli and Harry Kane secured a convincing victory for the hosts.

Asked if Arsenal had done enough to deserve anything from the game, he said: “No, but… it’s down to Spurs as well. They were sharper than us.

We were a bit too restricted and didn’t play with enough freedom. That favoured Spurs. We are not completely back to the level of confidence you need to play with freedom. Because the players realised it was a big game. The two together did that,” he added, referring to the Gunners’ fragility prior to a recent three-match winning run.

“Desire was there. It’s not the lack of the desire. It’s to play with a little more freedom, to want the ball, to create.

“It was quite an even game until they scored the first goal. Straight away, the penalty for 2-0, you could see mentally we were affected by that. From then on Spurs looked more dangerous than before. It took us time to recover.”

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