Arsenal not giving up on title, says Arsene Wenger, despite eight-point gap
After losing three home games in a row, Gunners rebound to outclass Watford
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger vowed that his side would not give up on the Premier League title after closing the gap on leaders Leicester City to eight points.
Saturday’s 4-0 victory over Watford came on the back of a win at Everton before the international break and maintained the pressure on Leicester, who host Southampton on Sunday.
Victory also enabled Arsenal to close to within four points of north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who dropped points in a 1-1 draw at Liverpool.
Wenger, whose side have seven games remaining, said: “We want to focus on the way we play and keep the quality very high. Then we’ll see where we are. We will fight until the end to have a chance.
“The only way we can achieve that is by playing games with our team quality. That is based on our movement, on our technical ability to play at the highest level and at the highest pace.
“Let’s focus on the next game. We know what is needed and what is needed is to keep the quality very high. Next week we go to West Ham. It’s always a difficult place to go, so let’s prepare for that.”
The quality of Arsenal’s play as they avenged last month’s FA Cup defeat by Watford came after a similarly impressive performance at Everton and raised questions about the inconsistency of Wenger’s side.
But the Frenchman maintained that the demands of fighting on three fronts – they also exited the Champions League at Barcelona last month – can take its toll on any team.
“The title is never there for the taking. You have to work for it,” he said.
“Everybody works for it and you have to respect the teams who have more points than you, and who have not played in as many competitions.
“We played Watford in the FA Cup then went to Barcelona on Wednesday and then to Everton on Saturday. It’s not the same (for Leicester).
“People on the outside think it’s easy, but you have to earn your points, work well in every game and recently we haven’t made the most of the chances we’ve created. We paid for that.”
Alexis Sanchez’s early goal put Arsenal in charge at the Emirates Stadium before Alex Iwobi marked a fine display with the second. Second-half goals from Hector Bellerin and Theo Walcott completed the win.
Iwobi has now scored in successive games, either side of his competitive debut for Nigeria, and Wenger believes the teenager’s emergence reflects the importance that his club place on youth development.
“We have values in our club that are maybe not rated always, but one of them is to give a chance to young people and educate them,” he said.
“Every year we bring players out and not many players can say that. I’m happy Alex is one of them. He arrived here at the age of seven or eight. He’s completely integrated in the way we want to play football.
“He’s worked with us since the start of the season and it shows because when he came in he was used to the way we want to play.
“He’s also very mobile and is a midfielder with creativity, but is also a finisher. The quality of his receptions is very good because he gets into good spaces.”
Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores warned that his side cannot afford to allow the looming FA Cup semi-final with Crystal Palace to distract them from their bid to confirm Premier League safety.
“It is important not to confuse the targets,” he said.
“The semi of the FA Cup is a real situation we want to live in the future. We have to live in the present and in six days we play against Everton.
“This is our target. If we think about what happens in three weeks, we are making a big, big mistake.”