football

Wenger wants Champions League exploits to fire title challenge

Arsene Wenger is trying to lead Arsenal to their first English Premier League title since 2004.
Arsene Wenger is trying to lead Arsenal to their first English Premier League title since 2004. Reuters

Arsenal return to the rigours of domestic competition on Sunday at Aston Villa. With leaders Leicester City hosting Chelsea on Monday night, three points will send Arsenal top for at least 24 hours. 

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Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger says his side's against the odds qualification for the knockout stages of the Uefa Champions League should inspire a charge for the English Premier League title.

The Gunners lost their opening two games in Champions League Group F but won their final two matches to advance to the last 16.

On Wednesday night, the north Londoners needed to beat Olympiakos by two clear goals to progress. France international Olivier Giroud scored a hat-trick in the 3-0 victory. 

On Sunday in the English Premier League, Arsenal travel to bottom-of-the-table Aston Villa run by the former Arsenal midfielder Remi Garde. 

Wenger says the game offers his players a good chance to maintain the momentum gathered in Greece. "We wanted to stay in the Champions League even though it seemed very unlikely. It was a fantastic performance in Greece that got us through. Now we're in the Champions League, let's focus again on the Premier League."

Wenger said the performance of the much-maligned Giroud gave him great satisfaction.

"Giroud has gone through this calendar year with ups and downs," he said. "It has been a typical Olivier Giroud year and when he has his downs he has put the effort in. Wednesday was one of his best performances on all fronts.

"You should look at Giroud's record. He has special qualities. You want him to be efficient as well but he has improved his link play and that's very important for our team.

"He has a positive mentality and a strong one. We are in a job where we have to accept that. "I'm just so happy we have him, he's one of the best strikers in Europe."

While Arsenal target the title, Villa are in a race for survival. Garde, who won a Premier League title with Arsenal in 1998, replaced Tim Sherwood as Villa boss in November.

Garde, 49, a former manager of the Ligue 1 side Lyon, said he had a lot of admiration for Wenger. "You realise how tough it is in the Premier League, how difficult it is to keep your job and get results," he said.

"I think you have to dedicate all your life to football. I'm not sure Arsene has had long holidays or many days off since he took over at Arsenal.

"For some personalities it is more difficult than others. Arsene has always lived for football and he has been rewarded for that," he added.

   

   

 

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