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Wenger: I gambled on Wilshere's fitness

ESPN staff
April 14, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has told his players they have to hold their nerve to claim a top-four spot in the Premier League, and revealed he took a risk on Jack Wilshere's fitness against Norwich.

The Gunners jumped into third spot after a late three-goal salvo claimed a valuable 3-1 win against Norwich on Saturday.

However, the North London club are only a solitary point above rivals Chelsea and Tottenham, while Everton remain in the hunt a further three points adrift. And with Chelsea holding a game advantage over Wenger's men, the race for a spot in next season's Champions League is expected to go right down to the wire.

However, Wenger said the club's current position in the table was of no concern to him, the Frenchman concentrating on maintaining Arsenal's current form of four wins in four games.

"At the moment the position is not important," Wenger told reporters. "What is important is to keep our run going. At the moment the team that is the most consistent that will get there. We have the most consistency.

"Finishing in the top-four is a question of nerve. Today was a balance of nerves, quality and intelligence. We didn't do anything stupid when we were 1-0 down. That side of the game is important.

"We need spirit and nerves. In the end we deserved the win. Credit to Norwich, they played well. They will not go down. They defended well, they gave us problems. We showed absolute resilience."

Wenger was also relieved to see duo Jack Wilshere (ankle) and Theo Walcott (groin) return from injury, Wilshere starting before being substituted on the hour for his England compatriot. However, Wenger did admit he was forced into risking Wilshire due to the unavailability of Tomas Rosicky.

"Wilshere worked hard," he said. "He's in full training, and he and Walcott only got back into full training this week. We thought he had enough to play an hour.

"I would not have pushed him if Rosicky was available. I didn't want to restructure the team, so I put him in."

And Wenger also lauded the performance of Lukas Podolski while at the same time dismissing rumours of the German international's exit from Emirates Stadium.

"Podolski is a luxury we have, as are Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain," he said. "It's very helpful. Look how we played when he came on. As soon as you have a player who doesn't play for three games, there are stories in the paper."

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