Arsenal v West Ham: Weary Gunners have fight for 'vital' top four finish, says Arsene Wenger

Monreal, Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ramsey struggling to be fit to the Hammers

With a chance to win tangible silverware in next month’s FA Cup final secured, Arsenal’s attentions tonight turn to the metaphorical trophy of a top-four Premier League finish which has often prompted ridicule of Arsène Wenger.

The Gunners’ manager has been criticised during a nine-year drought in tournament success, their sensible strategy admirable yet antiquated in a modern game awash with unchecked spending. Wenger’s approach has been heavily scrutinised but the cornerstone of his management is 16 years of unbroken participation in the Champions League.

Even though Arsenal are  emerging from those self-imposed financial constraints, they find themselves in another scrap for fourth place  and Champions League qualification against an Everton side brimming with swagger and conviction, whose remarkable recent run of seven successive victories, which includes an emphatic 3-0 win against Arsenal, presents a clear and present danger to Wenger’s record.

Alarm bells are ringing but Wenger is the last person to need a refresher course in what is at stake. At the Gunners’ London Colney training ground, a wry smile came across his face when the perils of missing out on the Champions League were raised.

“It is vital for the current players to qualify,” he said. “You learn more by playing against Bayern or Barcelona or Real Madrid than if you play in the Europa League, that is for sure.

“For many years I was sitting here and had to convince you that it was important that we were in the top four. Now it is in a reverse position, you say to me, ‘You realise how important it is for us’.”

Fatigue will inevitably be a factor on Tuesday evening when an already stretched squad is asked to face a West Ham team founded on dogged defending, just 72 hours after an emotionally and physically draining 120 minutes at Wembley against Wigan.

Wenger’s team news was lengthy and complex. Laurent Koscielny (calf) and Tomas Rosicky (thigh) face late fitness tests, while there are doubts about Nacho Monreal, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey. Mathieu Flamini is suspended.

Wenger, however, believes the mental tonic provided by taking a step closer to ending their nine-year trophy drought will mask the physical effects; Arsenal will certainly need to discover their verve now Everton are two points ahead in fourth place, with just five games remaining.

“We know well our target,” he said. “On the other hand, it’s better to play them with a positive feeling after that semi-final. If we had gone out it would really have been terrible. The fact that we come out in a positive mood will help us to recover. I believe physically we can cope with it.”

Jack Wilshere is expected to begin jogging again this week as he steps up his recovery from a foot injury and Wenger is confident the midfielder will return in time to play an active role this season. He may even lift some silverware.

Meanwhile, Arsenal’s chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, has questioned the “balance” of ticketing for the FA Cup final against Hull after each club was allocated 25,000 seats for Wembley on 17 May.

The Gunners took 49,000 supporters to the national stadium for Saturday’s semi-final against Wigan, but for the final the FA will allot 20,000 tickets to counties, leagues, clubs and charities. The final being part of the Club Wembley membership package, will account for some 17,000 tickets.

“We are disappointed many supporters will be unable to get tickets to the Cup final,” Gazidis said.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?