Nacho Monreal says Arsenal must not 'waste energy' listening to criticism

Spanish defender confident Arsenal can qualify for Champions League

Defender Nacho Monreal has urged Arsenal not to waste energy by taking notice of any critics and instead channel all their attention into finishing in the top four of the Barclays Premier League.

The Gunners will resume domestic action with a home match against relegation-battlers Reading, an encounter they must win to keep pressure on both Chelsea and Tottenham in the race for Champions League qualification.

With just one defeat in the last seven league games, coming at White Hart Lane, Arsene Wenger's men find themselves four points behind arch-rivals Spurs, but crucially with a match in hand.

Arsenal have endured one of the most testing campaigns under Wenger's tenure, with the 2-0 win in Bayern Munich earlier this month one of the few highlights.

Monreal, however, insists it is now down to the players to focus on delivering a positive end to what others have labelled a season of turmoil at the Emirates Stadium.

In an interview with the April edition of the official Arsenal magazine, Monreal said: "We still have matches left to fix the situation and to try to meet our objectives.

"It is logical that people talk because the situation has not been as it should be, but the players and club in general have to ensure that doesn't affect us.

"We have to use our energy for the matches. If you are thinking of what people are saying, you are wasting that energy. You have to concentrate on the next match.

"Every fixture now is a final we have to win. That has to be our mentality. I am sure we will put it right."

Monreal, 27, has settled quickly since his January deadline day signing from Malaga, scoring his first Arsenal goal in the 2-0 win at Swansea before the international break and then impressing in last night's World Cup qualifying win for Spain over France in Paris when deputising at full-back for the injured Jordi Alba.

Gunners midfielder Santi Cazorla praised the speed at which his former Malaga team-mate has taken to the hustle-and-bustle of the English top flight.

"Nacho is a footballer I really enjoy watching and playing with. He has adapted to the Premier League very well. What's more, our style of play suits him because he is someone with a lot of movement," Spain international Cazorla told Arsenal Player.

"He is a very good signing, and is proving it.

"I think Arsenal have really got it right with the transfer. I am very happy because he is a great mate."

Like most Premier League clubs, the majority of the Arsenal squad were away on international duty this week.

However, England duo Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott were not involved in the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro.

Walcott returned early after picking up what was described as a "minor hip/groin injury" in training ahead of the San Marino game, during which Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored in the 8-0 route.

Midfielder Wilshere, meanwhile, has not played since the defeat at Tottenham on March 3 after he was rested because of an ankle problem. His rehabilitation schedule - which included a trip to Dubai - was set to see Wilshere feature again this weekend.

Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, meanwhile, will be hoping for a recall having been dropped against Bayern and then benched at Swansea - which prompted an outburst from his father and a subsequent clarification from the Poland international, reaffirming his commitment to the club and support for Wenger.

PA

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