Arsenal focus on top-four fight
Arsenal are one win away from ending a nine-year wait for silverware but must put any thought of FA Cup glory to one side as they resume their stuttering charge for a Champions League place when they host West Ham United on Tuesday.
Saturday’s 4-2 penalty shootout victory over holders Wigan Athletic following a 1-1 draw after extra time earned the Gunners a date with fellow Premier League side Hull City on May 17 and a chance to win their first trophy since their FA Cup triumph in 2005.
While lifting a trophy at Wembley would undoubtedly offer the club a welcome boost at a time their ability to hold their nerve when the going gets tough has come into question, a top four finish and a 17th consecutive appearance in Europe’s elite club competition is arguably more important for the financial rewards it brings.
Following an abysmal 3-0 defeat by Everton eight days ago, Arsenal lost their hold on fourth place when the Merseyside club beat Sunderland 1-0 on Saturday.
They are now on 64 points, two behind Everton with five matches remaining, and manager Arsene Wenger said Saturday’s Cup win could help put them in the right mental state for the challenge ahead.
“It was a relief, everybody was happy yesterday, just for having qualified for the final,” the Frenchman told reporters on Monday.
“Anything different would have been very negative in our mind and now we can put that out of our mind and focus on the Premiership.
“I feel we’ve played many many games this season in many different competitions and many tough games, but we’ve put in a lot of effort in the Premiership, we want to finish strong now.
“They’ve got the opportunity to start tomorrow because it’s a big game, a derby, West Ham is in a comfortable position which means they can play without fear, so we know in this kind of game that it is important that we have a good focus and good tempo in our game.”
Arsenal have failed to win in four league matches, with the Everton defeat proceeded by draws with Manchester City and Swansea City and a 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Chelsea.
With time running out, Wenger acknowledged they needed to regain a level of consistency if they were going to overhaul Everton and reach the Champions League, having already seen their title challenge evaporate.
“It’s down to consistency and we have just to focus on our results and see where we finish,” he said.
“The quality of our performances, the quality of our spirit and our focus (makes me think we can finish in the top four).
“Experience counts of course. But the difference will be the quality of what you produce on the pitch and that is down to desire, to be faithful to our game we want to play and get everybody back in our squad.
“I believe that they have difficult games, and we have difficult games. We want to focus now on what we know we can do. We have a more complete squad and we want to win our games, no matter what Everton does. We want to finish in a strong way.”
Midfielder Tomas Rosicky and centre back Laurent Koscielny could return against 11th-placed West Ham after missing the semi-final with thigh and calf injuries respectively, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (groin), full-back Nacho Monreal (dead leg) and Aaron Ramsey (muscle tightness) are doubt in doubt, as is forward Lukas Podolski.