Arsenal must tighten defence says Wenger

Arsene Wenger maintains his squad is "convinced" they can last the distance in the title race next season but admits Arsenal must tighten up at the back if they are to be genuine contenders.

Only Chelsea and Manchester United have scored more Barclays Premier League goals than the Gunners.

Yet despite William Gallas and summer signing Thomas Vermaelen - who will both miss the rest of the season through injury - having settled into a decent partnership at centre-back, the 39 conceded is bettered by five out of the other top seven clubs.

With Gallas not yet having agreed a new deal, and fellow veterans Sol Campbell and Mikael Silvestre also out of contract in the summer, Wenger could well move to strengthen his backline with Fulham's Brede Hangeland a reported target as the Norwegian impressed in the run to the Europa League final.

But whatever the line-up next season, the Arsenal manager accepts his team must improve their collective defensive play.

"The squad is convinced we have a strong chance next year because we have room for improvement," Wenger said.

"If you assess our situation, going forwards we have been very, very efficient - our goalscoring rate is very good.

"Where we want to set ourselves a target next season is we have conceded nearly 40 goals - that is too many to win the championship and is where we want to improve."

Arsenal head to Blackburn on Monday night with little other than pride left to play for after another season which had promised so much failed to deliver.

Wenger, though, stressed there would be no thoughts of taking it easy at Ewood Park, or indeed in the final game against Fulham.

"It is important that we finish well to be faithful to what we have done during the season," stressed the Arsenal manager.

"First we need to be in the top three, then as close as possible to the other two."

Wenger maintained: "Compared to the difference which existed early on in the season last year, we have made progress.

"But we want to finish as close as possible to the team who will win the championship.

"There is still an outside chance they will drop points and that we can finish within five points of them."

Despite all his positive rhetoric, there remains a distinct sense of disappointment at what might have been.

Arsenal twice hauled themselves back into the title race after being written off, only to then be unable to produce a performance when it really mattered.

"With five games to go, we were in a very strong position," Wenger lamented.

"Then, we had disappointing results at Tottenham and at Wigan - that is unfortunately where we lost the championship.

"I believe had we won at Tottenham, then we would have been level with Chelsea today. So of course that brings immense regrets."

Wenger accepts his squad needs one or two additions during the summer, but is keen to get any business done sooner rather than later.

Arsenal are expected to confirm the arrival of Marouane Chamakh on a free transfer once the Morocco striker's contract with Bordeaux expires.

With the Gunners' goalkeeping position again coming under the spotlight this season following some inconsistent displays by both Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski, Wenger could be tempted to move for Kasper Schmeichel after the 23-year-old former Manchester City stopper was released by Notts County.

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