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Wenger backs Arsenal for top-four berth

Arsene Wenger says he still believes Arsenal will secure Champions League football next season by finishing in the top four this term.

The Gunners currently sit in fifth place on the Premier League table, four points behind north London rivals Tottenham who occupy the fourth and final automatic qualification spot.

The Frenchman’s side have a game in hand over their neighbours, though, and the 63-year-old insisted if his players carry their recent form into their remaining fixtures then a top-four finish is achievable.

“If we are consistent in the last nine games, we’ll do it,” he said on Thursday.

“We want to continue our form. (The) Bayern and Swansea results are a good inspiration for that.”

Reading, who are second-bottom in the league table, visit the Emirates on Saturday in what is Nigel Adkins’ first game in charge since replacing sacked Brian McDermott.

Wenger sent his sympathies to the former Royals boss, but indicated he is pleased to see the ex-Southampton manager, who was relieved of his duties at St Mary’s in January, given another chance in the top flight.

“It’s sad to see (McDermott) go,” he added. “It’s good to see [Adkins] back and that he gets a chance again.”

Wenger confirmed that influential midfielder Jack Wilshere will miss the clash against Reading through injury.

The 21-year-old pulled out of Roy Hodgson’s England squad for their recent World Cup qualification double-header against San Marino and Montenegro after suffering from a recurrence of the ankle injury that kept him sidelined for 16 months last season.

“We deferred his rehab and gave him an extra week’s rest. Medically, it was wise to do it,” Wenger said.

“Wilshere will still be out. (Theo) Walcott is injured, (Abou) Diaby has a problem we will have to check and (Kieran) Gibbs has been ill.”

“We have a good relationship (with England). Walcott’s injury was an accident.”

After goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was forced to apologise for his father’s public comments criticising Wenger for his handling of the Poland international, the Frenchman dismissed suggestions that his time at the club was coming to an end.

He added: “He’s nearly played 100 games for this club. That is fantastic. He has a very good future and has accumulated a lot of experience.”

Thu 28 March, 2013
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