• Champions League

Wenger admits Arsenal focus on top-four fight

ESPN staff
February 20, 2013 « Harrison eyes revenge fight with Price | Chartbeat test »

Arsene Wenger is looking to next season as he suggested Arsenal would again have to concentrate their efforts on finishing in the top four after the 3-1 home defeat to Bayern Munich.

Arsenal's hopes of winning a first trophy since the 2005 FA Cup are all but over for another season after the first-leg defeat to Bayern on Tuesday, with the Gunners having already exited both domestic cups and fallen 21 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester United.

Wenger, who said a year ago that "the first trophy is to finish in the top four", has been forced to take the same tack this time around.

"Look, we'll have two battles but maybe the easier battle will be to be back in the Champions League," he told journalists after the Bayern defeat, adding that his team would "give everything" in the second leg but acknowledging it will "be extremely difficult against a team of that quality".

Wenger feels his players were "a bit nervous" in defence but dismissed a question about whether he would look to enter the transfer market to reinforce at the back.

"Is that an information [fact] or an opinion?! I just think that our defenders are quality, and the transfer market is closed," he said. "That's an information. Bayern is a quality side who can beat anybody in Europe. On top of that, we lack a bit of confidence at the moment. That makes them even better."

He added: "The quality of my players is there, but they're not getting their rewards. We're not being rewarded for our efforts. I still have confidence in my players and in my team but, on tonight's evidence, there's clearly work to be done."

Nerves, he said, were a significant issue, and he was tentative about when their confidence would return.

"That's a very difficult question to answer at the moment. The results bring that. It's a bit of a vicious circle."

Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud, meanwhile, attempted to put a brave face on Tuesday's defeat.

A second-half subsitute at the Emirates, Giroud, 26, might have given Wenger's side something to cling to ahead of their trip to Bavaria on March 13 had he been able to beat Manuel Neuer with a half-volley barely a minute after coming on. Instead, the Germany goalkeeper turned aside the forward's effort, and Mario Mandzukic afterwards made it 3-1.

"We kept in touch in the second half, but the third goal changed things," Giroud told beIN Sport. "Nothing's lost, but we now have to score three goals away from home. We know just how strong they are at the back, so it won't be easy. It's difficult to accept, but I think Bayern were better than us. We wanted to put in a good performance at home and not concede, but they were clinical in the first half."

While L'Equipe calculated only two per cent of teams had ever overturned such a first-leg deficit, Bayern's stats inside the Allianz Arena make for even less comfortable reading for Wenger's side. Neuer has conceded just nine goals in 14 league and Champions League encounters this season, while his team-mates have averaged three goals per game in that time.

After finding themselves 2-0 down within 21 minutes in the first leg, full-back Bacary Sagna, 30, knows Arsenal can ill afford such a slow start in the return leg.

"We took a long time to get into the game. They had too much space and, against a team of that quality, that's not something that will be forgiven," the France international told beIN Sport. "They put away the chances they created, and it hurts. We know what we have to do over there. It'll be a big game. We're going to prepare ourselves for that."

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