Arsene Wenger: Top four is not Champions League

Arsene Wenger has his eyes on a top-three finish in the Premier League as he looks to avoid the lottery of a Champions League play-off.

Arsene Wenger: Top four is not Champions League

The Gunners travel to struggling Sunderland tomorrow and sit third heading into the weekend after beating West Brom 2-0 on Thursday.

Wenger wants to finish third, with Leicester and Tottenham unlikely to be caught as they battle for the crown, and be entered straight into the group stages rather than be drawn in a play-off at the start of next season.

“Top four is not Champions League. Top three, yes. That’s why it is important,” he said.

“We are not guaranteed top four and we have to fight for that.

“Man United is behind us and they will fight for it as well. We have difficult games and so do they.”

A tricky trip to Sunderland, who are scrapping for their top-flight status and have renewed optimism after Sam Allardyce masterminded an impressive 3-0 win away to fellow strugglers Norwich, will not be an easy outing.

Wenger may decide to keep fit-again Jack Wilshere out of the firing line, despite the fact he has come through three U21 fixtures unscathed since returning from a broken fibula suffered on the eve of the season.

“Physically he is better,” said Wenger. “If I don’t take him this weekend I will certainly take him the next one.”

Wenger professed surprise at Mesut Ozil’s absence from the PFA Team of the Year, despite being shortlisted for the player of the year.

“It’s a surprise,” Wenger added. “When you are top in the assists usually that is a sign of quality that should get you a place in the top team.”

Meanwhile Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe admits the club are in relegation trouble because they were simply not fit enough under former boss Dick Advocaat.

Defoe told newspaper The Journal: “The start of the season... we just weren’t good enough and we weren’t fit enough. We were so far off, so far off where we are now. Look at the [opening day] game against Leicester — we were blown away. It was difficult. Now it’s like a different team.”

Allardyce admits he was shocked to discover he had inherited the least fit side in the Premier League, in terms of the Prozone statistics.

He said: “Yes, it was a shock.

“I told the staff a player could not get away with anything.

“If you wanted him to do that little bit extra, make sure he does it — and if he didn’t do it, just send him to me.

“It’s a schoolteacher job, I know, but it actually works sometimes.”

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