Arsenal confident of top four finish, says Mertesacker

 

Per Mertesacker maintains Arsenal are confident they can break into the top four despite the disappointment of failing to secure all three points against Wolves.

The Gunners missed the opportunity to leapfrog Chelsea when they were frustrated by an inspired performance from visiting goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and a battling display from Mick McCarthy's men, who survived the second-half sending off of midfielder Nenad Milijas to earn a 1-1 draw.

Tottenham's win at Norwich yesterday evening increased the gap to third place, but German defender Mertesacker insists there is still plenty to play for heading into 2012.

"We had a big chance to go into fourth place, but we didn't do that. It was our fault - we had a lot of chances but we didn't score," said Mertesacker, who saw his late close range header kicked away by in-form Hennessey.

"There are some days in the life of goalkeepers where something happens like that. He was in great form and it was his day.

"Yes, we had a big chance today, but there are other big chances to come. We are ready to go into the top four and are confident."

At 6ft 6ins, Mertesacker is certainly a commanding presence at the heart of the Arsenal defence, and has now settled into the hustle and bustle of top-flight English football following an August deadline move from Werder Bremen.

The 27-year-old is enjoying the new challenge and said: "It is a little different between here and the Bundesliga but you get used to everything in the world and hopefully in the next month I will improve more and more.

"I am very happy to be here and to get this opportunity to build myself up."

Mertesacker added: "It is more physical, maybe not as technical [as the Bundesliga], but the speed is much harder.

"This the best league in the world, therefore you have to improve your game, but the important thing is to show you can deal with it."

Arsenal looked set for a comfortable afternoon when Gervinho, who will soon depart for African Nations Cup duty, fired them ahead after only eight minutes.

However, a lapse in concentration at the back allowed Stephen Fletcher to head home an equaliser from a half-cleared corner, and from then on Arsenal just could not find a way through.

Midfielder Mikel Arteta feels lessons must be learned ahead of their next two games, at home to Queen's Park Rangers on New Year's Eve and then at Fulham on January 2.

The Spaniard told Arsenal Player: "Every side in the Premier League works hard but one goal is not enough.

"We have to be ruthless at home and keep more clean sheets to make sure we don't drop points."

Arsenal captain Robin van Persie had a couple of chances to edge closer to the record for goals in a calendar year, but for once the Dutchman's clinical finish was missing - he also saw a couple of on-target free-kicks touched round by Hennessey.

If van Persie is to get the brace to equal Alan Shearer's Premier League haul of 36, that will now have to come against Rangers.

The 28-year-old maintains the landmark is not dwelling on his mind.

Speaking to Arsenal Player ahead of the Christmas schedule, van Persie said: "I will try to break the record, but it's not first on my wish list. It comes fourth or fifth, or something.

"For me I always want my basics right for what we have to do to win.

"If I can score it's good, but I am not only going out on the pitch to score goals, I am going out there because I love football.

"I like to play and we want to win the game and get the three points."

"Hopefully I can add some assists or goals, but I am not out there as maybe as some other strikers are, thinking of themselves.

"I am not like that and I never will be. We go out there in a different way and I prefer that.

"There are a lot of players who do their thing and that's it, but I'm going to make it a bit more complicated and ask more for more from myself."

PA

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