Arsene Wenger insists it is “vital” that Arsenal avoid finishing in fourth place this season. The Gunners, who have three games left to play, current sit in third in the Premier League, two points ahead of Manchester United and a point behind second-placed Manchester City, who both only have two matches remaining.
And Wenger has warned that the club face ‘dramatic consequences’ if they fail to secure a spot in next season’s Champions League.
“It’s very important for your season preparations not to have that kind of stress over your head from the first day you start again, it’s vital,” said Wenger.
“We know what it means and we know it’s always tricky because you can play against teams who are in the middle of their championship when you are in preparation.
“The consequences are always dramatic if you don’t qualify. It is the pressure of not qualifying that is massive.
“What is even more important now is that the international competitions force you most of the time to start the new season without your players.
“You cannot give them a long enough rest when they have played international games. If we give Sanchez four weeks’ holiday (after the Copa America) he won’t be back till July 21 so he will not be available for a play-off.”
After finishing fourth last year, Arsenal needed to beat Fenerbahce in the play-offs in order to reach this season’s Champions League group stage.
And while the Gunners eased through with a 5-0 aggregate victory, Wenger believes the previous play-off tie against Udinese in 2011 attributed to his side’s 8-2 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford.
“The clash against Udinese [in 2011] was most stressful because you saw afterwards they had a very strong team. It contributed to our bad result at Old Trafford three days later,” said the Arsenal manager.
“When you qualify at Udinese and three days later have to go to Old Trafford with exactly the same focus, you have more chance to lose the game than to win it so sometimes you pay the price in the Premier League.
“A play-off means in pre-season training you have to focus, you are already thinking about that day.”