Updated May 14, 2017 08:40:29
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is adamant the Gunners’ “fighting spirit” has returned after his side completed a third Premier League victory in a week to roar back into contention for a top-four finish.
The Gunners looked dead and buried in pursuit of a 21st successive Champions League qualification after a 2-0 loss at rivals Tottenham Hotspur last month but they have climbed to within a point of fourth-placed Liverpool with an impressive 4-1 victory at Stoke City.
The victory followed similarly convincing 2-0 wins against Southampton and Manchester United respectively but the Gunners still need Liverpool or Manchester City to drop points before they stand a chance of finishing in the top four.
Manchester City beat Leicester City 2-1 at home, a result that lifted Pep Guardiola’s troops to third place behind Spurs and above Liverpool, however they are all chasing the minor placings on the standings after Chelsea wrapped up the Premier League title on Saturday (AEST).
Liverpool plays West Ham United on Monday (AEST).
Arsenal has now regained crucial momentum and confidence ahead of its final two matches against Sunderland and Everton, much to the pleasure of its relieved manager Wenger.
“We had a difficult week playing Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday,” Wenger told the BBC.
“We had three wins in a very convincing way so the focus is there, the desire to play together is there and the fighting spirit is there and of course we are very pleased for that.”
Arsenal controlled proceedings against Stoke City and led 2-0 through stylish goals from Oliver Giroud and Mesut Ozil before Peter Crouch pulled one back – with his hand – to set up a potentially nervous finish.
The atmosphere inside Stoke’s famed Britannia Stadium ramped up and many would have been forgiven for expecting the Gunners usual frailties to come to the fore.
Instead the mercurial Alexis Sanchez and Giroud added further goals to secure an impressive victory for the fast-finishing Gunners.
“I believe when the team plays well we have individual talent and of course that always benefits from it,” Wenger said.
“We just have to win our games now.”
Guardiola praises ‘brave’ refereeing in City win
A freakish penalty ‘miss’ by Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez saw Manchester City squeeze out its victory on home turf.
Mahrez beat Willy Caballero with 13 minutes remaining but had slipped in his run-up and inadvertently struck the ball twice, once with each foot.
Eagle-eyed referee Robert Madley correctly applied the law and City breathed deeply before seeing out the remainder of the match to stay on course for Champions League qualification.
“When I saw the reaction from Willy, I understood immediately that it was two touches,” Guardiola said.
“The referee was so brave in making the decision. I’ve seen that happen before, a long time ago. It’s not normal to see something like that, but it is what it is.”
In the battle for south coast bragging rights, Southampton beat the already relegated Middlesbrough 2-1 with goals by Jay Rodriguez and Nathan Redmond keeping the Saints above Bournemouth, who defeated Burnley 2-1 thanks to Joshua King’s late winner.
Southampton is ninth and Bournemouth 10th with both clubs on 45 points.
Bottom-placed Sunderland, who will join Middlesbrough in relegation, lost 2-0 at home to Swansea City.
First posted May 14, 2017 08:35:42
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