Arsene Wenger wants Arsenal to continue believing into next season

 

Arsene Wenger has challenged his Arsenal squad to end the season with the belief they can deliver again in 2013.

The Gunners - who appear set to be without midfielder Mikel Arteta because of an ankle injury for their final four matches - host Chelsea tomorrow lunchtime aiming to bounce back from the disappointment of Monday night's shock 2-1 home defeat by Wigan.

Arsenal are currently five points ahead of fourth-placed Tottenham and Newcastle, and some seven in front of the Blues, albeit having now played a match more.

It has been a remarkable turnaround by Wenger's squad to fight their way back into Champions League contention following an appalling start - which saw them slump down as low as 17th place.

Wenger feels if for nothing else, the group deserve credit for the way they found consistency from such a testing spell, as a run of nine wins from 11, including seven successive victories, saw the Gunners overhaul Spurs, Chelsea and Newcastle.

"After losing four games in the first seven, to be where we are today is a remarkable achievement," the Arsenal boss said.

"Now our target must be to better what we did last season.

"A strong finish will be important for that reason, and also to give us the belief to enter 2012/2013 with confidence."

Wenger admitted on Monday night he feared Arteta's injury was "quite a serious one".

It is understood while scans revealed no break, ligament damage means the Spanish midfielder will need several weeks of recovery.

Yossi Benayoun, on loan from Chelsea, is ineligible to play against his parent club this weekend, so Aaron Ramsey or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could start in midfield.

Despite Arsenal's resurgence, qualification for next season's elite European competition is far from guaranteed.

Indeed, should Chelsea, who on Wednesday night won the first leg of their semi-final against Barcelona 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, go on to lift the European Cup in Munich next month, but fail to finish in at least fourth place, then they would take the spot in next season's group stages and consign their rivals down to the Europa League.

Ivory Coast forward Gervinho, however, insists the Gunners are fully focused on delivering the required performances over the closing four games to make that possibility irrelevant.

"We want to be among the top three. The whole group is very motivated and we are already happy to be where we are," Gervinho told Arsenal Player.

"We can still do better with the four matches coming. We are fighting only for third place, we don't think about fourth spot.

"Everybody is determined to fight until the end, from the players and the manager to the fans, to maintain third place.

"If we manage to keep it then everybody should be proud because we fought very hard for it."

Gervinho, a £10.5million summer signing from French side Lille, added: "We had to prove to the people who didn't believe in us that we were able to come back by playing well.

"The result is here today. Our progression during the season speaks for itself on the pitch."

PA

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