Arsene Wenger has warned that there is no guarantee Arsenal will qualify for the Champions League this season, despite Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Aston Villa saw his side pull eight points clear of fifth-placed Chelsea in the Premier League.
The Gunners cruised to three points against Alex McLeish’s men at the Emirates, with goals from Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott and Mikel Arteta helping the north Londoners to their seventh successive win in the league.
However, despite an upturn in form which has seen them not only overhaul rivals Tottenham, but also pull three points clear of Harry Redknapp’s side, Wenger has insisted that the race for the top four is still wide open.
“Champions League football is not guaranteed, but we can do it if we keep our performances at that level,” Wenger told reporters after the game.
“We have gone through difficult times, we have learnt that nothing is guaranteed and that we have to keep humility and focus to finish the season in a strong and convincing way.
“I didn’t expect [to be in third place] because it did not only depend on us.
“We needed our results and results in our favour from our opponents and in the last month it has turned our way so we have to make sure that we keep the momentum.
“We look to be a team that is on the up so that is a positive.”
The Frenchman was delighted with his side’s performance, and once again singled out his defence for praise after keeping a clean sheet despite the late withdrawal of Laurent Koscielny due to injury, with the centre-back replaced by Johan Djourou.
“I felt it was a very dynamic, fluent performance in the first half with technical quality and it was a controlled one in the second half,” he continued.
“We controlled the game and managed not to concede a goal, our fatigue maybe set it because we had to give a lot at Everton on Wednesday night.
“Koscielny has tendinitis in his knee. I don’t know what position he woke up in, but he couldn’t walk properly. He tried in the warm up and couldn’t play. We called somebody up and straight away after the first run he said he couldn’t even move it was so bad.”
He continued: “Overall I’m very happy, very please, because we managed to score goals and not concede goals and we have consistency at the moment.
“I feel we have gained a lot our confidence in our play out from the back and that makes a massive difference, when you have the security to play out the ball it allows the team to be much more confident.
“What people forget is when you play at home and you have the ambition we have, you need full-backs that go forward and we played for a long time without the centre-backs and full-backs, it kills your offensive drive and we went through the middle and relied on [Robin] Van Persie.
“We have more variation now in our build-up again, therefore we are more dangerous.”
The 62-year-old also hailed the performance of Walcott and Alex Song, with the midfielder creating the 22-year-old’s goal to make it 2-0 with a floated through ball similar to those provided for Van Persie’s goals against Liverpool and Everton this season.
“[Walcott] scored a great goal, have to give him credit. I would like to give credit to the pass of Song [for the goal],” Wenger added.
“You will not see many defensive midfielders make as many assists as him, if you look at Song this season, you will see that his numbers are top in Europe.”