LONDON (Reuters) - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger knows his side face a battle to clinch a top-four spot and Champions League qualification after Crystal Palace snatched a 1-1 draw at The Emirates on Sunday.
The Frenchman hoped for a Premier League title triumph this season, but instead his charges are scrapping for a place among Europe’s elite after slipping behind Manchester City into fourth on goal difference, with Manchester United four points behind.
“For us, it will be a fight until the end to get a place in the top four,” Wenger told a news conference after Arsenal conceded a late goal against lowly Palace, adding that he was in no mood to talk about the “dream” of a title.
“If we can do more, we will do more. But let’s not dream.”
Arsenal remain 13 points adrift of leaders Leicester City with a game in hand but Wenger is looking over his shoulder with five games remaining to secure a Champions League spot.
Things seemed to be going to plan for Arsenal on Sunday after they capped off a first half in which they dominated possession with a goal from Alexis Sanchez, who nodded home a delightful chip from Danny Welbeck.
But they struggled to convert their possession into clear-cut chances, and paid the price when Palace’s Yannick Bolasie struck with a low drive that caught out home keeper Petr Cech at his near post 10 minutes from time.
“Despite the high level of possession we had, we didn’t create enough chances,” Wenger said. “We didn’t play with enough freedom and flow.”
Two wins in their last seven league games has seen Arsenal slip into the final Champions League spot with Wenger’s record of 18 straight seasons in Europe’s top club competition under threat.
Two months ago, the Gunners beat Leicester to move within two points of the leaders and were 10 points clear of Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United in fifth.
Yet the season has petered out for Arsenal — a familiar sight for fans of a team who have not won the Premier League since 2004 — and victories for the two Manchester clubs this weekend have left Wenger under even more pressure.
“I am responsible for the results, and I’m the first (to get) frustrated,” he said. “At the moment, it’s more let’s stick together, and do our best until the end of the season.”
Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Ken Ferris