Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has stressed his players must keep their heads in the race to secure Champions League football after they moved up to third place in the Barclays Premier League with a 1-0 win at Everton.
The Gunners’ sixth consecutive top-flight victory saw them leapfrog Tottenham, who drew 1-1 with Stoke last night.
A top-four finish seemed a tall order for Wenger’s men at the start of February, yet they are now a point clear of their north London rivals and six ahead of fifth-placed Chelsea – defeated 2-1 at Manchester City yesterday – with nine games left to play.
They look good for a Champions League berth but manager Wenger is taking nothing for granted and has warned against complacency.
“We want to keep going and we must not think now that the most difficult thing is done,” the Frenchman said.
“Probably the most difficult thing still remains to do, and to achieve it it is important we keep humility, focus and fight for each other – that is what we had to do here (against Everton).”
Wenger was delighted with the battling qualities his team showed at Goodison Park.
The Gunners began the game looking potent going forward and were in front inside the opening eight minutes when Thomas Vermaelen headed in Robin van Persie’s corner.
Everton came back into the game and the Toffees had what appeared to be a legitimate goal chalked off in the 31st minute when the flag was raised for offside against Royston Drenthe.
The hosts continued to press after the break, but Arsenal held out for the three points and Wenger said: “We were resilient, focused and showed a great desire to defend – our defence played very well.
“You have seen a side of us that normally people don’t know, but it was the only way to get the result I felt, and it was good to know we can do that as well.”
Everton boss David Moyes was enraged by the decision to rule out Drenthe’s effort, with replays indicating the Dutchman had indeed been onside when the through-ball was played to him to tee up his strike.
Wenger admitted afterwards that his side had been fortunate on that occasion, while Moyes expressed his belief that it had been one of several unjust calls to go against the Toffees.
“Apart from the first 20 minutes, I think we played as well as Arsenal and were really unlucky not to take something from the game,” said Moyes, whose team stay 10th.
“There are five decisions that (should have been given as) onside.
“There are five, I have checked, and that was a goal.
“In the last few games we have had really poor decisions against us.”