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LONDON: Arsene Wenger admits Arsenal’s remarkable surge towards Champions League qualification seemed like an impossible dream just a few months ago.
Wenger’s side made it seven wins in a row on Saturday as Aston Villa were brushed aside in a 3-0 stroll at the Emirates Stadium.
The victory strengthened Arsenal’s hold on third place in the Premier League — a scenario that seemed far-fetched even to Wenger earlier this season.
The Gunners were languishing in 17th spot last September, but they have now moved three points above local rivals Tottenham and eight points ahead of Chelsea with just eight games left.
And the Arsenal manager admits he could never have predicted the dramatic turnaround in fortunes that even saw the Frenchman come under attack from his own supporters.
“We have consistency at the moment. We are scoring goals and not conceding goals and we wait for the next game,” Wenger said.
“But, given what’s happened and where we were, at the time it was a dream to be in third or fourth now.
“You come in next day and do your job and stay positive and work hard. That’s what the players did. I was optimistic as the attitude of the players was positive every day.
“We have gone through difficult times. But we have learned that nothing is guaranteed, you have to keep humility and focus and finish the season in a strong and convincing way.
“I didn’t expect to be in this position as it didn’t just depend on us — we needed our results and results in our favour from our opponents.
“In the last month it has turned our way so we have to make sure we keep the momentum.
“We look to be a team on the up which is positive. When you are in a good period it’s important to keep your urgency. At this stage of the season, every game is a final.”
Arsenal’s 7-1 rout of Blackburn began the revival and since then they have not looked back.
Villa were the latest team to feel the full force of an in-form and confident Arsenal side who have their swagger back.
Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott and Mikel Arteta got the goals and Wenger believes his side no longer has an over-reliance on star striker Robin van Persie.
“When we didn’t win games, we didn’t play as bad as people said,” Wenger added.
“But I feel now that we have gained a lot of confidence in playing out of the back.
“That makes a massive difference, to have security when having the ball. We relied on van Persie, but we have more variation in our build-up game. We are more dangerous as well.”
Villa manager Alex McLeish warned his side they should still be looking over their shoulder as they try to secure their Premier League status for another season.
Villa have an eight-point cushion from the bottom three, but McLeish said: “Everyone is aware of our situation. That was our most experienced players starting the game and the rest are injured.
“The loss of Jermaine Jenas at the start of the season was a big one. We have missed someone creating from the centre.
“We have a few more points than the teams below us and we have got to get further up the table. We have to be realistic, that coming to somewhere like Arsenal and winning would be tough.
“In my entire career though, as a player and manager, I knew I was capable of getting a result. We have to be positive and the glass will be half full rather than half empty.” -- AFP