Wenger anxious to qualify quickly as annual supporters' grilling looms


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The Independent Online

Arsène Wenger will hope for some good news when Arsenal host Schalke in the Champions League tonight. After losing at Norwich last Saturday, his side are 10 points off the lead in the Premier League and at tomorrow's Annual General Meeting their seven-year trophy drought is bound to be an issue.

The manager said yesterday he was very keen to beat Schalke to allow him to rotate his team "as quickly as possible". He admitted that Arsenal now have a "very limited" margin of error in the league after their mixed start. While Wenger insisted that the club was "in a very strong position", he acknowledged that there would be some discontent at 11.30am tomorrow.

Wenger hopes that victory tonight will help him to close the gap in the Premier League. Arsenal won their first two group games, at Montpellier and at home against Olympiakos, so victory tonight would put them on nine points. From there, they could relax and focus on domestic matters. "Yes, of course, the target is for us to do that as quickly as possible," Wenger, pictured, said yesterday.

Recently, Arsenal have struggled to clinch qualification quickly. Last year, two draws meant they qualified only in their penultimate game. In 2010-11, it took until their sixth match after losing at Shakhtar Donetsk and Braga.

A quicker resolution this year would allow Wenger to focus on cutting that 10-point deficit in the Premier League, which he admitted was already difficult. "It's a lot," he said. "But we have just to focus to get closer now. For us, it's not the number of points only, it is that the margin of error we have now is very limited. The three points we dropped at Norwich are not welcome. We absolutely needed to win this game."

It was Arsenal's second defeat of the season, after losing 2-1 at home to Chelsea. "Both games we have given away basically. Both games where we had more possession, more shots on goal, more chances."