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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger during yesterday's game.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger during yesterday's game.
Image: EMPICS Sport

Wenger vows to fight for top four place in battle for Champions League

Arsenal suffered a major setback yesterday when losing 3-0 to rivals Everton.
Apr 7th 2014, 10:12 AM 1,804 5

ARSENAL MANAGER ARSENE Wenger admitted the race for the final Champions League place has been blown wide open after his side’s 3-0 loss away to Everton at Goodison Park yesterday.

The gap between Arsenal in fourth place in the Premier League and Everton in fifth spot is now just a point, and the Toffees have the advantage of a game in hand on Wenger’s side.

Arsenal have qualified for the Champions League for the past 16 consecutive seasons, a qualification record for the competition bettered only by Real Madrid and Manchester United.

Everton now have the opportunity to break that streak although Wenger claimed his players would draw upon the experience of previous seasons to secure fourth spot and with it a place in Europe’s premier club competition next season.

“The fight is very open and is depending not only on us,” Wenger said. “Everton are in a strong position but we have been confronted with that before and it is how we respond.

“I am absolutely 100 percent determined to fight for the top four, it will be difficult,” the Frenchman, the longest-serving manager now in the Premier League, added.

“We have a programme of fixtures that is feasible, but we must focus on the quality of performances before we talk about that,” added Wenger, who will expect a much improved effort from Arsenal in their FA Cup semi-final with holders Wigan at Wembley on Saturday.

“Our performance here was not convincing or defensively or offensively. It’s disappointing a result and performance. The two go together and now we have to regroup and go back to basics,” said the Gunners manager.

Everton secured victory after a stirring display in which Arsenal only sporadically tested goalkeeper Tim Howard.

Steven Naismith gave the Toffees the lead when he stroked the ball home in the 14th minute. Everton doubled their lead just after the half-hour mark when on-loan Chelsea striker Lukaku notched his 12th Premier League goal of the season.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Everton v Arsenal - Goodison Park Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Former Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta put through his own net in the second half to seal the points for the Toffees.

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Everton manager Roberto Martinez said this win had seen his side overcome an important mental hurdle.

“The implications today (Sunday) were quite unique,” Martinez said.

“We were hoping for a result but what was needed was breaking many barriers — 22 games we played against Arsenal, we only scored one goal or less.

“We kept a clean sheet and scored three and looked like we could have scored more. It was a huge three points from psychological point of view,” the Spaniard added.

“We knew if we could get the three points it would leave us with 63 points which is an incredible amount but we still have 18 points to play for.”

Martinez refused get carried away with his side’s top four prospects with six games of the season remaining.

“It’s not going to be straightforward to qualify for the Champions League but the mentality of the group is that we believe in ourselves and can do it.”

Soccer - Roberto Martinez Filer Everton boss Roberto Martinez. Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

- © AFP, 2014

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