Arsene Wenger today praised his side’s character following their strong performances in the second half of the season that could see them seal third place in the Premier League with a victory over West Brom on Sunday.
If they do finish third it would be an achievement that seemed unlikely given their early season form Wenger conceded: ‘Three months ago, everybody would be happy to go into the final game with this [league position].’
‘Ask our opponents, who were 10 or 15 points in front of us, the Premier League is difficult. We came from a deep position in the league but, if you look at where we are today, it’s remarkable.’
Arsenal travel to West Brom needing three points and Wenger is expecting a difficult encounter, dismissing suggestions that his opponents will lack motivation in what will be Roy Hodgson’s last game in charge at the Hawthorns, and that his side are inexperienced.
‘I expect [West Brom] to play at their best. They’re well organised, they play 4-4-2 very well and we’ll adjust our performance to that, to face an opponent who are focused and motivated. It’s a massive game but I feel that we are focused, switched on and I’m confident we will do well. We have known final days like this, where we’ve played for championships or qualifying for the Champions League. It’s a fantastic opportunity for us, one we want to take. If we have more of the ball than West Brom, we’ll have more chances to win the game.’
There was praise, too, for Hodgson who will next week name his England squad for the European Championships. ‘He has stabilised West Brom in the last two seasons, they had 47 points last year, and they have that again this year.’
When asked if rivals Tottenham, who are just a point behind Arsenal, had an easier game on Sunday Wenger disagreed: ‘Fulham are a good team. [It is] a derby we cannot predict, there are no easy matches in this league.’
Reflecting on this campaign, which has been voted the best Premier League season ever, Wenger agreed: ‘[It has been] an interesting season, very unpredictable. Every game was difficult. The differences between the teams have become smaller, so the quality is maybe higher.’
Should Arsenal clinch third place it will be a fitting way for assistant manager Pat Rice, who retires at the end of the season, to end his 44 year association with the club as both a player and a coach.