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Wenger eyes repeat as Arsenal chase Euro berth

Arsene Wenger will be looking for a repeat of six years ago when his Arsenal team look to pip Tottenham to a Champions League place this weekend.

sports Updated: May 12, 2012 08:05 IST
Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger will be looking for a repeat of six years ago when his Arsenal team look to pip Tottenham to a Champions League place this weekend.

There are many similarities to the 2006 season finale when the two north London rivals were competing to reach Europe's top club competition on the last day of the campaign.

On that occasion Spurs were favourites but lost at West Ham after a mystery virus hit the squad - blamed on a lasagne players ate at their hotel - allowing Wenger's team to overtake.

During that season there were also doubts whether fourth place would be enough for Spurs as Arsenal were also in the Champions League final - and this time Chelsea could claim the final place if they beat Bayern Munich.

"Frankly, I didn't know what happened," said Wenger, who takes his team to West Brom knowing victory will secure third. "I didn't cook that day. If I had cooked more would have been ill.

"It's a massive game in front of us, but I feel that we are focused, switched on and that I'm confident we will do well.

"For us, it's just the right mixture: to be focused, combative and relaxed. We want to be faithful to play our football like we want. In the end, it will be down to playing well no matter what is at stake."

An added twist is that Martin Jol, who was Spurs' manager in 2006, will take his Fulham team to White Hart Lane.

Regardless of where they finish, Wenger is proud of his team's recovery after staring at relegation trouble earlier in the campaign.

"Three months ago, everybody would be happy to go into the final game with this," he said.

"The Premier League is difficult. We came from a deep position in the league but, if you look at the way we've made to be where we are today, it's remarkable."

Wenger, who has Theo Walcott returning from injury, also has no problems about the UEFA rules that will deny fourth place Champions League qualification if Chelsea win at the Allianz Arena.

"The rules are the rules. You accept them. You know them before the start of the season," he said.

"We want to finish third. We have the potential and opportunity to do that, so let's do it. We can deal with the consequences after the game. We want to look at it as an opportunity we want to take."

Wenger also insisted he would remain at the club next season even if they are in the Europa League, adding: "I always said that."

Keith Downing, meanwhile, has urged West Brom to give head coach Roy Hodgson a fitting send off in what is his final game before taking over his England duties on a permanent basis.

Even a point for Albion would see them beat last season's best points finish in the Premier League of 47.

The 10th-placed Baggies are also on course to finish in the top half of the Premier League for the first time, having finished 11th last term.

"We hope to give Roy a really good send-off," assistant manager Downing said. "From our point of view, we can't move up but we want to finish above 47 points and finish strongly to make sure we have momentum for the new man in charge.

"So there is still something for us to play for and targets, as there were last week.

"We know the importance of Arsenal's situation, but there are still contracts to play for and the Euros coming up."

Like Hodgson, Paul Scharner is another set to bid farewell to the Hawthorns on Sunday after the Austrian midfielder confirmed he he will look for a new club for next season.

Baggies skipper Chris Brunt misses out after having his tonsils removed, while Peter Odemwingie (hamstring) and Jerome Thomas (virus) are both doubtful.