Gervinho says Arsenal are 'happy' to be in third-place

 

Gervinho maintains everyone at Arsenal should be proud if the Gunners end a testing campaign in the Barclays Premier League with third place to show for their efforts.

The Gunners, who appear set to be without midfielder Mikel Arteta for their final four matches because of an ankle injury, host Chelsea on Saturday 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.

While it has been a remarkable turnaround by Arsene Wenger to guide his men back into Champions League contention following an appalling start, which saw them slump down as low as 17th place, qualification for next season's elite European competition is far from guaranteed.

Indeed, should Chelsea, who last night won the first leg of their semi-final against Barcelona 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, go on to win the competition 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 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: "It is true that I am disappointed to see another year without a trophy.

"I am used to getting trophies, but we tried and we went through a lot this year.

"We are happy to have reached that level. I hope next year we will do even better."

A run of nine wins from 11, including seven successive victories, saw the Gunners overhaul Spurs, Chelsea and Newcastle.

Gervinho believes the squad were spurred on by those who claimed Wenger's men were now a spent force.

"We learnt a lot from the negative start we had. It has made us stronger. We learnt a lot during that struggle," he said.

"In life you will always be criticised.

"We had to prove to the people who didn't believe in us that we were able to come back by playing well on the pitch.

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

Wenger also feels if, for nothing else, the group deserve credit for the way they found consistency from such a testing spell.

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

PA

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