Anyone who thought that watching Arsenal lose at home to Blackburn Rovers and Bayern Munich was like witnessing a car crash is in good company, because Arsène Wenger feels the same. But the Arsenal manager thinks his team showed enough quality in the victory over Aston Villa on Saturday to suggest they can still reach the Champions League places – and the Frenchman would not rule out finishing higher than fourth.
A delusional manager ignoring the harsh reality revealed about his squad's shortcomings by two dismal defeats? Some will think so.
But Arsenal have won four and drawn one of their past five Premier League matches and have reduced the gap between themselves and fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur to a single point. Unless Spurs beat West Ham at Upton Park this evening, Arsenal can overtake them with victory in the north London derby at White Hart Lane on Sunday.
Manchester City's victory yesterday probably puts them out of Arsenal's reach but Chelsea remain in their sights. "Chelsea are [only] two points ahead of Arsenal," Wenger said. "I'm not sure that it will only be a fight with Tottenham. But what is for sure is that if we can maintain our run, we'll get there, in front of Tottenham or anybody else. What is important is that we go to the end of the season in every game and try to win it."
Against Villa his team kept going to the end, overcoming a nervy opening 70 minutes to win with a well-taken goal that confirmed his belief in good football, Jack Wilshere's exquisite chipped pass allowing the overlapping Nacho Monreal to set up Santi Cazorla's second goal of the game.
The uncertainty that had gone before was understandable. Wenger said: "We twice hit the wall in one week. When you drive a car and you hit it for the first time and have an accident at 100 miles per hour you say 'OK, we go again.' When you hit it again three days later you will drive a bit more cautiously and that's exactly how it was.
"But we are ready to fight for the football we love to play. You could see that again, we continued to play going forward until the last second of the game and we will continue to do that until the end of the season."
Wenger praised the willingness of Cazorla in playing an unfamiliar wide role, but his winner was hard on Villa and their scorer Andreas Weimann.
"We have to take confidence from this for the last few games," he said. "Every time we went forward it looked like we could create something. We just switched off for one second near the end of the game.
"We know that we are in the bottom three at the moment but we are all confident we'll get out. We've got 11 games left – we need everyone to stick together and we'll be fine."