Wenger faces up to nightmare finale for Gunners' season

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Arsene Wenger last night admitted that Arsenal were in danger of ending the season without a trophy. "It is possible because we are far from winning the Premiership," before adding, in reference to the Easter programme, "we have a big weekend ahead for us".

Arsene Wenger last night admitted that Arsenal were in danger of ending the season without a trophy. "It is possible because we are far from winning the Premiership," before adding, in reference to the Easter programme, "we have a big weekend ahead for us".

His players had "hit a wall" and he conceded that tiredness and the pressures of preserving their long unbeaten run were taking their toll. "It will be difficult to lift the players but they are mentally strong and it will be a big test for us," the Arsenal manager said.

The defeat, he said, was harder to take than Arsenal's previous Champions' League exits. "It is the most disappointing because we would play Monaco now and it is a good chance to go into the final and that is disappointing," Wenger said.

He rated Chelsea's chances of proceeding as "80/20" in their favour after Monaco's surprise defeat of Real Madrid.

"It was a big blow to lose," he said. "We had a very good first half and we were on top of the game and looking dangerous.

"The 1-1 was a turning point because it was a big blow as we knew we had to score again. We did not deal with it. We dropped too deep and tried to run with the ball too much. We had a few players who were tired and we were waiting for extra time."

Wenger said that Thierry Henry had asked to be substituted suffering from a hamstring injury while Gilberto Silva had been taken ill. He admitted that there would "always be a question mark [about his side] for as long as we fail" to win the Champions' League.

"I'm confident that we will bounce back and try again next season," he said. "Football is cruel. It is like that. It is difficult to accept. There is always only one [manager] who is happy."

The Chelsea head coach, Claudio Ranieri, said he was "delirious" with the result. "Thirty seconds of delirium," he said of his reaction at the final whistle. "I wanted to be with my players."

The Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich had joined in the celebrations. "He was mad like me. Everybody was crazy in the dressing room."

Ranieri refused to be drawn on his own future. "I don't know," he said. "I am focused on this season and that is important for me, for the club, for everybody." However he said that the future for his team was bright. "I think this great victory can change something now," Ranieri said. "We must believe in ourselves more than before. I believe in this team. But of course at the beginning [of the season] we played very well and then slowed down a little. A little confidence we lost. Now I hope this great victory will give us a lot of confidence."

So much so that he believes that winning the Premiership is still a possibility. "Everything is possible but I know, for me, it's a gamble," he said. "

Every match with Chelsea is a gamble. I want to continue in the league as that shows how much you have improved from last season. The Champions' League is a bonus."

Ranieri identified the decision to bring on Jesper Gronkjaer at half-time as the turning point. "I think it was the right moment to try to do something," he said. "In the first half we want to close down very well the space and go on the counter attack. We were nervous at the beginning but slowly, slowly my players played better."

He said he told his players to "stay calm" once they fell behind. Ranieri also could not resist a dig at critics who have questioned his tactics. "Until now I am the Tinkerman because I make a lot of rotation," he said. "Now it is the crunch moment."

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