Arsenal’s form has been patchy of late and this has seen them fall 13 points behind Leicester, with last weekend’s 3-3 draw against West Ham United potentially proving critical, Wenger knows his side cannot afford to drop any more points.
Well, the Gunners will be hosting Crystal Palace on Sunday as they aim to maintain a positive energy on their faint title hopes. This game comes sandwiched in between their main rivals’ matches, with Leicester City in action in the early Sunday game (meaning they could be 16 points off the top of the Premier League table and indeed down in fourth position by the time they face the Eagles) and Tottenham Hotspur taking on Stoke City on Monday, meaning the Gunners will be aiming to crank up the pressure should the Foxes slip up.
And even if that is merely a pipe dream, there is no doubt that Arsenal must keep winning to avoid being dragged into the battle for the top four. The third-placed Gunners are currently six points clear of Manchester United in fifth, but their Champions League spot for next season could come under serious threat if they lose on Sunday.
Wenger still believes there is still a chance his side can make a run at the title, and he this to say: “We need a strong run now. There is pressure but a lot of pressure on the teams around us. It is perceived the title is over but I don’t think that completely. We have to fight from now until the end of the season.”
And speaking ahead of the match against Palace, the Frenchman said: Crystal Palace should be completely safe even if they may still need one or two points.
“They’re a team with a good offensive potential, with strong individuals like (Yannick) Bolasie, (Wilfried) Zaha, (Emmanuel) Adebayor, (Connor) Wickham. We need to rectify the fact we conceded three at West Ham. We need a strong run now. There is pressure but a lot of pressure on the teams around us. It is perceived the title is over but I don’t think that completely. We have to fight from now until the end of the season.”
Palace meanwhile have a miserable record against the Gunners, having won just once in their 13 Premier League meetings, and haven’t won a league game on the road in their last seven matches, stretching back to the 2-1 victory at Stoke in December.
And Palace manager Alan Pardew said: “Just recently my run against Wenger has been poor but there have been some very tight games, especially the home game. You can only put your best display on; they’ve only lost three at the Emirates.
“There’s a bit more of a bounce in our step since these recent results. Since West Brom our performances have been strong, we deserve a few more points if we’re honest. They have some new players into the team who have shaken it up a little bit; their fresh faces from the academy and the transfer market have done well. There’s a few unfamiliar names to our guys.”
Arsenal have no new injury worries from the draw to West Ham, with Peter Cech and Aaron Ramsey likely to feature on Sunday. Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosisky are not ready to be involved despite having played for the Under-21 side following their recovery from injuries.
Crystal Palace forward Dwight Gayle is unavailable due to a leg muscle problem, but Alan Pardew hopes to have the striker fit in time for the FA Cup semi-final against Watford on Sunday, April 24. Wilfried Zaha remains a doubt with a shoulder complaint and will face a late fitness test.
Arsenal starting XI: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Elneny, Sanchez, Ozil, Iwobi, Welbeck
Palace starting XI: Hennessey, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare, Jedinak, Cabaye, Zaha, Puncheon, Bolasie, Wickham
Prediction: Arsenal 3 Crystal Palace 0