Arsene Wenger has refused to criticise West Ham for their feeble performance against Liverpool which looks set to cost Arsenal a place in the Champions League next season.
ARSENAL V SUNDERLAND
Tonight: 7.45pm, Emirates Stadium
Referee: Roger East
TV: Live on Sky Sports
Bet: Arsenal 1/8 Sunderland 20/1 Draw 8/1
The Gunners need a minor miracle to overhaul either Liverpool or Manchester City to finish inside the Premier League top four after all three sides won over the weekend.
Arsenal recorded an impressive 4-1 win at Stoke but were always reliant on one of their rivals dropping points before the end of the season if they were to reel either of them in.
Instead, City edged past Leicester before Liverpool, with a seemingly tricky trip to the London Stadium, coasted past a West Ham side that had beaten title-chasing Tottenham just a week earlier.
But Jurgen Klopp’s side took a massive step to returning to the Champions League as they eased to a 4-0 win which leaves Arsenal requiring snookers to crash the top four.
Home wins in their remaining two games against Sunderland tonight and Everton on Sunday would still not guarantee the Gunners a place in the Champions League, but Wenger said he was only interested in what his side did.
“I don’t look at the other fixtures. Some teams turn up, some go on holiday,” he said.
While that could be implied as taking as swipe at Slaven Bilic and his West Ham players, Wenger went on to say Arsenal would have only themselves to blame if they failed.
“I don’t want to judge that,” he said when asked specifically about West Ham’s performance.
“We can only influence our own behaviour and take care of ourselves, not judge too much the others.”
City finished fourth last season despite amassing just 66 points — Arsenal can gain nine more than that with two final victories and still end up in the Europa League.
“It will be frustrating,” Wenger conceded. “I still think we just have to give our best to get to 75 points and if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. At least we have done our job well to the end.
“I would say we would be a victim of a lack of consistency that we have shown through the season. Overall, that is in a very short spell where we have paid for it.”
Wenger, who remains under pressure to leave this summer as supporters continue to protest against him signing a new deal, also has an FA Cup final date with Chelsea on the horizon.
It will be his third FA Cup final in four years and the 67-year-old pointed to that record when asked if he would take the Europa League seriously if Arsenal finished outside the top four and he stayed on.
“Apart from the League Cup, where we play always the younger players to give them a chance to develop, we take all the other competitions seriously,” he added.
“I think I play in my eighth cup final. You don’t do that if you don’t take competitions seriously.”
Meanwhile, Sunderland boss David Moyes has admitted he could not argue with Alan Shearer’s withering critique of his relegated team’s abject surrender against Swansea.
Match of the Day pundit Shearer — the former captain and manager of Sunderland’s rivals Newcastle — was scathing as he assessed their performance, describing it as “disgraceful”, “pathetic” and “lazy”, and Moyes found it difficult to disagree.
Asked about Shearer’s comments — which were mirrored by fans on social media — at his pre-match press conference, he said: “I’d have to say that I think in many ways, he was right. I was incredibly disappointed with the performance.
“I don’t think any player ever goes out to try to perform like that. There were some reasons for it, but I’m actually privy to the stats, I can see the physical stats and on much of that, I couldn’t disagree.”
Nevertheless, Moyes does not believe his reputation has been irreparably damaged during his year on Wearside despite the difficult spells at Manchester United and Real Sociedad which preceded it.
He said: “I have a great win record at nearly all the clubs I have been at. This is the only anomaly where it hasn’t happened. But I have got to say, it hasn’t happened for quite a few managers and it has been that way for quite a while.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved