ARSENAL and England midfielder Jack Wilshere has challenged the Gunners to win all of their remaining six games, but insists even victory over Everton tonight will not be enough to clinch a Champions League place.
Seven wins from their last eight Premier League fixtures have thrust Arsene Wenger’s team back into a four-way tussle with Chelsea, Tottenham and the Toffees to finish in the top four.
That run makes Arsenal the top-flight’s most in-form team, and Wilshere believes they are capable of maintaining their resurgence despite still having to face champions-elect Manchester United later this month.
Three points this evening against thriving Everton would lift them seven clear of the Merseysiders and four ahead of London rivals Chelsea and Spurs but not, says Wilshere, into a comfortable position.
“We’ve got Everton now, which is big, a really important one, and if we win then we’re in a good position. But even then we’re definitely not over the line, we’ve got some tough games coming up,” he said.
“Fulham away will be tough [on Saturday], and then we’ve got Manchester United [on 28 April] – we obviously don’t want them winning the league at the Emirates Stadium, so we’ll be up for that.
“But I think we can get maximum points from our six games – we beat United here the season before last, so we know we’re capable of it. If we do drop points, we drop points. We’ll just have to bounce back and go game by game.”
Everton have taken 13 points from a possible 15 and Wilshere picked out England latecomer Leon Osman as a threat, comparing him to Barcelona and Spain midfield star Andres Iniesta.
“I’ve liked Leon Osman for years, I think he’s a great player. He’s in the mould of Iniesta in that he can drift past players, has a great touch and is very underrated,” added Wilshere, who returned from injury on Saturday.
“He’s a top class player and they’ll be dangerous in there, especially with [Marouane] Fellaini as well and [Darron] Gibson, who’s got a great strike on him. The midfield battle is going to be key.”
Wenger, meanwhile, plans to leave it late before deciding whether “major doubt” Lukasz Fabianski is fit to play, having suffered a kick to the ribs in the weekend win over Norwich, with axed No1 Wojciech Szczesny on standby.
THE BATTLE FOR CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Arsenal are among four clubs vying for two Champions League qualification spots, assuming Manchester United and Manchester City claim the top two places as expected. Chelsea, who have battled a huge fixture backlog, are just one point behind but have a game in hand on the Gunners, Tottenham and Everton.
Everton (H), tonight
Fulham (A), Sat 20 April
Manchester United (H), Sun 28 April
QPR (A), Sat 4 May
Wigan (H), Tue 14 May
Newcastle (A), Sun 19 May
Fulham (A), tomorrow
Liverpool (A), Sun 21 April
Swansea (H), Sat 27 April
Manchester United (A), Sun 5 May
Aston Villa (A), Sat 11 May
Tottenham (H), date TBC
Everton (H), Sun 19 May
Manchester City (H), Sun 21 April
Wigan (A), Sat 27 April
Southampton (H), Sat 4 May
Stoke (A), Sun 12 May
Chelsea (A), date TBC
Sunderland (H), Sun 19 May
Arsenal (A), tonight
Sunderland (A), Sat 20 April
Fulham (H), Sat 27 April
Liverpool (A), Sun 5 May
West Ham (H), Sun 12 May
Chelsea (A), 19 May