LONDON (Reuters) - Arsenal’s “fighting spirit” has returned, manager Arsene Wenger said after his side completed a third Premier League victory in a week to roar back into contention for a top-four finish.
After a 2-0 loss at rivals Tottenham Hotspur last month, Arsenal looked dead and buried in pursuit of a 21st successive Champions League qualification but the Gunners have climbed to within a point of fourth-placed Liverpool.
Their impressive 4-1 victory at Stoke City on Saturday followed similarly convincing 2-0 wins against Southampton and Manchester United respectively.
The Gunners still need Liverpool or Manchester City to drop points before they stand a chance, but Wenger’s side have now regained crucial momentum and confidence ahead of their final two games against Sunderland and Everton.
“We had a difficult week playing Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday. We had three wins in a very convincing way so the focus is there, the desire to play together is there and the fighting spirit is there and of course we are very pleased for that,” Wenger told the BBC.
Arsenal have struggled at the home of the abrasive Potters, not winning there since 2010, therefore the manner of victory was particularly impressive with a controlled defensive performance setting the foundations for their scintillating attack.
They controlled the game and led 2-0 through stylish goals from Oliver Giroud and Mesut Ozil before Peter Crouch pulled one back -- with his hand -- to set up a potentially nervous finish.
The atmosphere inside Stoke’s famed Britannia Stadium ramped up and many would have been forgiven for expecting the Gunners usual frailties to come to the fore.
Instead the mercurial Alexis Sanchez and Giroud added further goals to secure an impressive victory for the fast-finishing Gunners.
“I believe when the team plays well we have individual talent and of course that always benefits from it,” Wenger added.
”When they scored the hand goal they made it rough. In the games like that when you go to Stoke you need at some stage to suffer, to stick together and that’s what we did.
”We survived a few corners and from then on at 3-1 it was game over. The physio told me he (Sanchez) wants to come off (with injury) but he is still a fighter and still found the resources to score an exceptional goal after.
“We just have to win our games now.”
Reporting By Tom Hayward, editing by Pritha Sarkar