Jack Wilshere said yesterday that Arsenal can win their six remaining Premier League games, starting with tonight’s match against sixth-placed Everton, which will have a significant bearing on who claims the two remaining Champions League places still realistically up for grabs.
Wilshere, who played for the first time in six weeks against Norwich City at the Emirates on Saturday, said that Arsenal are capable of winning every one of the remaining matches, including the visit of Manchester United a week on Sunday. “We can get maximum points,” he said. “We beat United here the season before last, so we know we’re capable of it. If we do drop points, we drop points – we’ll just have to bounce back and go game by game.”
Wilshere also said Arsenal were keen to avoid a situation in which United sealed their 20th championship at the Emirates. Should the league leaders win their next two games, and second-placed Manchester City their next three, a point for United at the Emirates would be enough for them to win the title.
Wilshere said: “We’ve got Everton now which is big, a really important one, and if we win then we’re in a good position. But even then we’re definitely not over the line, we’ve got some tough games coming up. Fulham away will be tough, and then we’ve got Manchester United – we obviously don’t want them winning the league at Emirates Stadium, so we’ll be up for that.”
The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, is ready to bring back goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny for the first time since the north London derby on 3 March, following Lukasz Fabianski’s rib injury that will almost certainly rule him out of tonight’s game. It would be the first return to action for the former first-choice goalkeeper since he was forced to apologise for his father Maciej’s outspoken criticisms of Wenger.
Szczesny eventually lost the faith of the Arsenal manager ahead of the second leg of the Champions League last 16 tie against Bayern Munich and has not played since then. However, Wenger said that the 22-year-old had responded well to being left out and was ready to come back into the team in place of Fabianski.
Wenger said: “He [Szczesny] worked very hard and worked very well. I do not want to make a case of it before the game. We have three good goalkeepers and that’s been shown during the season. Everybody had the ability to show his quality and that’s what you want.”
Per Mertesacker will be available again and Tomas Rosicky will also come back into the squad, following his hamstring injury. Wenger also hinted that Wilshere, who played an hour in the 3-1 win over Norwich City may be rested tonight. “I rushed Jack back a bit,” Wenger said yesterday. “He was not completely ready. How careful have I to be? To listen to the medical advice and use him when everything is all right and listen to him about how he feels.”
Wenger added: “We have built a great run and that is basically down to spirit, dynamic, communication and huge desire. They showed great responsibility in a difficult situation on Saturday. That’s what you want from your players.”
Meanwhile, David Moyes urged his Everton team to put themselves “right in the mix” for Champions League qualification by winning tonight’s crucial match.
Moyes said it was a pivotal evening for his side’s prospects of achieving a top-four finish for the first time since 2005.
They drew 2-2 at Tottenham nine days ago but probably need to better that result at Arsenal. “If we could have won at Tottenham we were right in the mix; if we’d lost we were probably out but we drew,” Moyes said. “If we win this one we will be right in with an opportunity. If we lose it, we will probably be out of that chance of making the top four.
“The players know that this is a chance as well and because of that there’s not a great deal that needs to be said. It’s not a big chance, but it’s a chance and there’s probably only five, six, seven teams who can say that so we’re happy to be in that position.”
Moyes’ reluctance to talk up his team’s prospects, despite a run of four victories and a draw from their last five league fixtures, is perhaps understandable, given Arsenal’s own hot streak of seven wins from eight. The Merseyside club have taken just two points from 11 previous visits during his Goodison reign.
“I am really loath to talk it up because it’s such a difficult game for us,” Moyes said. “Undoubtedly, our record has not been great at the Emirates, we go there as big outsiders.”
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