“It is difficult to know,” grimaced Arsène Wenger. “For example with QPR on Saturday, you don’t know what you will meet. Maybe you will meet a team who is firing on all cylinders.
“On the other hand what [Manchester United] side will Chelsea meet on Sunday? I don’t know. So it is very difficult.
“I don’t really want to speculate. Let’s just focus on our performance, our quality and how we want to play. The Premier League is the Premier League and you don’t win 3-0 or 4-0 in many games. It is always tight.
Podolski to score first @ 9/2
“If you look at the results on our run. We won 1-0 against Sunderland, Wigan and Fulham. It is always close and you can only do that if everyone is absolutely 100 per cent focused.”
Suddenly, we are at that stage of the season when the fixture list can be confidently committed to memory. Tottenham host Southampton on Saturday then Chelsea visit Old Trafford on Sunday. The pair play out a crucial fixture on Wednesday before two tricky-looking away trips - to Stoke and Aston Villa respectively on FA Cup final weekend.
In the midst of all that, Arsenal have just one fixture - at QPR on Saturday evening. The Loftus Road side were relegated on Sunday just before the newly-crowned champions Manchester United arrived at Emirates Stadium last weekend. So will their football be liberated or beach-bound?
But then the attitude of Sir Alex Ferguson’s side was under scrutiny last weekend and they nearly snatched a win.
Meanwhile are Stoke safe? What if Villa are OK by next weekend? Will Wigan (Arsenal’s next opponents) be affected by their FA Cup final appearance?
Questions, questions, questions. Football is always full of them and, of course, this is the only time in the season when you can realistically speculate on the motivation of a professional footballer. But even then you can never be sure of the influence it will have.
Also this period is the only time when Arsenal fans are truly hanging on the results of other teams. After all, the Chelsea v Tottenham game has long been an unprinted asterisk in the league table.
But it disappears on Wednesday night.
Currently, those two sides have their destiny in their own hands, Arsenal do not. But Wenger is confident that nine points from his side’s last three fixtures would be enough.
It is very important to keep the level of focus on what is vital for the future of the team and club.Arsène Wenger
“If we win all of our games we’ve made 73 points,” he said. “It’s unlikely but if we’re not in the Champions League with 73 points then at least you feel you have done your job.
“We won the league with 78 [in 1998].
“There is one chance out of 100 that even that will not be enough. It can happen, though, if we [do not] win our games so let’s focus on that.”
QPR’s relegation was confirmed last weekend but it had seemed inevitable for some time. They have not been out of the bottom three since October 1 and replacing Mark Hughes with Harry Redknapp in November had little effect, even though the latter invested heavily in January.
The most effective signing has been Loic Remy, a striker who played against Arsenal for Marseilles in 2011. The 26-year-old has returned five goals during an 11-game spell that was punctuated with a serious injury.
“It is bit short to assess him [in England] but the first impression is positive,” said Wenger. “He is a talented player who plays for the French national team. So we will have to keep him quiet. He is a very efficient striker.”
Remy apart, QPR’s new signings have not come off. They come into Saturday’s game having achieved two points from a possible 18 and already thinking about how the squad will have to be reshaped in preparation for the Championship.
“That can happen,” said Wenger. “We have seen it before in football. You have to accept that football is a risky game. It demands a lot of investment but there is no guarantee that you will be successful with it.”
But then, football’s ability to look ahead is unsurpassed. The last fortnight of the campaign will shape both how it is viewed by history and much of the preparations for the season to follow. Yet this week the English media has been full of the future. Future signings, future problems, even the future of the manager himself.
You always knew Wenger would pour metaphorical cold water over such questions at his pre-match press conference. And he feels fortunate to have players who seen it all before.
“There is a lot of disturbance in the environment,” he said. “What will happen next season, who you will buy, who will go. So it is very important to keep the level of focus on what is vital for the future of the team and club.
“For me that is where experience helps and we have a few experienced players like Cazorla, Rosicky and Arteta. Per Mertesacker and Sagna too.”
Wenger can choose from the same squad as last weekend. Lukas Fabianski (rib) may be fit next week while Olivier Giroud is sitting out the second game of his three-match ban.
The squad is fit and the form is the best of the top-four contenders.
Mathematically, Arsenal need snookers. But, in reality, you feel they have their future under their own control.
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They just have to keep the question marks out of their heads.
Arsenal: Giroud (suspended), Fabianski (rib), Diaby (knee).Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source