Wenger refuses to quit until the last whistle

Sports | 18 May 2017

Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal can still salvage their turbulent season by defying the odds to snatch a Champions League place on the final day.

Wenger's side kept alive faint hopes of qualifying for Europe's elite club competition with an Alexis Sanchez double clinching a 2-0 win over relegated Sunderland.

The Gunners' sixth win in their last seven games leaves them fifth, a point behind fourth-placed Liverpool and three adrift of third-placed Manchester City.

For Arsenal to avoid missing the Champions League for the first time in 20 years, they must beat Everton at home on Sunday while hoping for a slip from either Liverpool or City.

If Liverpool beat relegated Middlesbrough and City avoid defeat at Watford, then Arsenal are consigned to the Europa League, but Wenger is not ready to settle for that just yet. "If you have only a 1-percent chance you still have to give everything," he said.

At the conclusion of a season that reflects Arsenal's decline, Wenger knows that being out of the top four would hurt many disenchanted fans.

There were swathes of empty seats at the Emirates Stadium as fans stayed away in protest at Wenger's failings, and the indignity of spending Thursday nights at less glamorous stadiums in the Europa League would hurt.

Wenger has yet to confirm if he will remain in charge next season, but despite his team's predicament he takes justified pride in having led Arsenal into the Champions League for 19 years.

And a win on Sunday, he pointed out, would give Arsenal 75 points - among the best hauls during the last 10 years. "We won more games than last year, and we have one point more already," he noted. But he is not surprised by fans staying away.

If Arsenal do miss the Champions League, Wenger has already pinpointed the cause: a series of damaging away defeats.

"We shouldn't have lost at West Brom and Crystal Palace," he said. "At Man City as well we were really unlucky with some decisions."

Arsenal are only in with a shout of the top four thanks to Sanchez, who played through the pain of a thigh injury to see off Sunderland, showing how much the club need him to sign a new contract.

"Once he's on the pitch and has the ball he becomes a devil and forgets pain," Wenger said. "He's become a top-class player here. He has not wasted his time. Hopefully he'll be here a long time."

French striker Yann Kermorgant's penalty gave Reading a 1-0 victory over Fulham that sent Jaap Stam's side into the Championship playoff final. Reading advanced 2-1 on aggregate.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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