Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has insisted that qualifying for the Champions League via the Premier League remains the priority, in the aftermath of his side’s dampening 1-0 defeat against bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
Following their loss at Wembley on Saturday afternoon- courtesy of a Harry Kane header- the Gunners find themselves in sixth place, six points adrift from the top four.
That tally could be stretched to nine points should Liverpool beat Southampton at St. Mary’s on Sunday afternoon, while fifth-placed Chelsea could go eight points ahead of Arsenal should they earn a much-needed victory against struggling West Brom on Monday night.
Right now, it would seem as though the north Londoners most feasible hope of playing Champions League football next season would be by lifting the Europa League trophy- just as Manchester United did last season- but Wenger still hasn’t given up hope on qualifying the old-fashioned way.
Speaking to Arsenal.com, Wenger said following the defeat: “For me, it's a very disappointing result because the priority has to be to get into the Champions League from the Premier League [top-four finish].
"I'm not a great fan of qualifying through the Europa League because I don't think it's right. If it's an opportunity, we'll have to try to take it as well. The priority is still to be in the Premier League.
"It's a game we couldn't afford to lose, of course. That makes it much more difficult now but we have to fight for as long as we have a mathematical chance. There was more at stake than just the derby, I said that before the game. That's why it's so disappointing to lose the game in the way we lost it."
While Wenger admitted that his side weren’t at their flourishing best on Saturday, he couldn’t help but feel aggrieved for their missed opportunities.
"We missed opportunities on counter-attacks that are not missable at our level, due to the final ball. In the second half, we should have lost the game by more than one goal at the start. We were destabilised by the goal they scored and they had two or three more opportunities that they could have scored,” Wenger ranted.
"In the final part of the game, we should have come back to 1-1. That maybe would not have been enough, but would be better than being 1-0 down. Overall, we've got mixed feelings because for long periods in the first half, with a bit more quality in our final pass, we would have won this game."