Chelsea resurgence a worry for Wenger

Arsenal may find fourth not good enough for Champions League

If there is one consequence of Chelsea's win over Barcelona on Wednesday that no manager involved in the battle to secure a Champions League place has missed, it is the possibility that securing fourth in the Premier League this season might not be good enough for entry into Europe's elite competition.

Click HERE to view 'Race for third: How events have unfolded' graphic

The prospect of Chelsea finishing outside the top four but winning the Champions League, as Liverpool did in 2005, remains a long shot but then long shots are what managers are paid to keep their eye on. Arsène Wenger acknowledged as much yesterday and it means that a win for Arsenal in today's lunchtime kick-off against Chelsea carries even more significance than it might have done before Wednesday's semi-final first leg at Stamford Bridge.

Of course, a demolition of Chelsea at the Nou Camp in three days' time and all that talk ends but should Chelsea make it to the final in Munich then the picture changes. When Liverpool won the trophy in 2005, special dispensation was made to allow five English clubs to enter the competition the following season. From then the rules were tightened so that a defending champion who finishes outside the top four takes precedence over the team that finishes fourth.

Wenger had forgotten the 2005 conundrum – perhaps because in those days, what happened beyond first and second scarcely concerned him. "It's right the Champions League winners have the right to defend the trophy," he said. "That it takes the fourth place is unfortunate. Ideally, you would like to combine the two. The team who finish fourth have fought the whole season and cannot get into the Champions League. I find it right the winners have the right to defend the trophy."

What if it were Arsenal in fourth place who lost out to a Chelsea team that won the Champions League? "We would not be happy but it's the rules and we have to accept it. We cannot change the rules just because it's us."

His team go into today's game having lost their last match at home to Wigan, while Chelsea beat the European champions. Wenger was surprisingly complimentary about Chelsea's approach to the Barça game – "They were very good at what they decided to do and they decided to defend" – but he had little sympathy for Roberto Di Matteo's four games in 10 days.

"It's part of being successful. We have done that many times. Sympathy? You have some... but it's part of wanting to be at the top level. It was the same when we played Milan at home [on 6 March] and our players were on international games in Africa. We played Sunday at Tottenham, [they played a] Wednesday international, Saturday morning at Liverpool and Tuesday night at Milan and some of the players played the full games.

"[Against Barcelona] Chelsea had a game-plan that worked a little bit. Maybe they were lucky because they hit the woodwork twice. I feel Chelsea played the system they wanted to play well. The three central midfielders did well, the two wide players worked very hard and Gary Cahill and John Terry had a great game. The two of them they blocked some shots from [Lionel] Messi and were remarkable sometimes. They had a great performance on the day. With what they wanted to do. And [Didier] Drogba did the rest..."

Drogba is not expected to play today with a knee injury picked up on Wednesday and Wenger only alluded to his true feelings about the Chelsea striker's performance. "He [Drogba] was good in everything he did," Wenger said, "he did even more than expected."

The 5-3 win at Stamford Bridge in October was, for a long time, the stand-out result of Arsenal's season, until they put together that run of seven wins in nine league games which included a defeat of Manchester City at the Emirates. In fact, had Chelsea not had their worst season since the Roman Abramovich era began in 2003, Wenger's problems might have been seen in an even more unforgiving light.

His team beat Barcelona at home last season before losing in the Nou Camp, albeit after the dismissal of Robin van Persie. Arsenal's approach to their home game against Barça was very different to that taken by Chelsea although Wenger said Arsenal had played the same way in the 2005 FA Cup final win over Manchester United.

Both clubs find themselves in stronger positions than when they met in October and Abou Diaby, who has played three games all season, the last in March, is back in the Arsenal squad. In many respects the season has finally come alive for both clubs, although they know that it is laying the foundation for Champions League football next season that is the imperative.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
food + drinkFrom Mediterranean Tomato Tart to Raw Caramel Peanut Pie
Boys to men: there’s nothing wrong with traditional ‘manly’ things, until masculinity is used to exclude people
indybest13 best grooming essentials
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
travelPurrrfect jet comes to Europe
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch attends the London premiere of his new film The Imitation Game
people He's not as smart as his characters
Life and Style
healthMovember isn't about a moustache trend, it saves lives
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities