Wenger hails Arsenal's fighting spirit in Palace win
Arsenal dug deep to clinch a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace on Saturday.
LONDON - Not renowned for the battling qualities, Arsenal dug deep to clinch a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace on Saturday that left them best-placed among their rivals to clinch a top-four Premier League spot.
Quietly and perhaps under the radar of those fighting for Champions League qualification, Arsenal's good recent form has moved them into third in the table at the time of the year when their season so often suffers a fatal wobble.
The last two months have proved productive for Arsene Wenger's team, who have won five of their last six league games.
With a kinder run-in then many of the other top-four chasers, the Londoners look well-positioned to secure their customary spot among Europe's elite, providing they continue to accumulate points against lesser opponents.
Santi Cazorla calmly stroked them into an eighth-minute lead from the penalty spot after Danny Welbeck was felled by Papa Souare and their grip on the match tightened when Olivier Giroud tapped home a rebound just before the break.
That two-goal cushion survived until stoppage time when Glenn Murray reduced the arrears but it was too little too late.
"It was about fighting for the win," Wenger told the BBC, highlighting an area of Arsenal's game that is often their Achilles heel.
"Crystal Palace made it a really tough game and we had to dig deep on a difficult pitch against a good team so I'm very happy with the win.
"Palace gave everything they had. It was like a cup game. They closed us down and stopped us playing."
Wenger's side have three games against teams in the top among their last 12 remaining matches.
Only one of those, against Manchester United in the penultimate league fixture of the season, is away from home while the other two, against Liverpool on April 4 and Chelsea three weeks later, are at the Emirates Stadium.
The positivity surrounding Arsenal, who were handed a further boost with the return of midfielder Jack Wilshere to the bench for the first time since November, was perhaps one reason why Palace boss Alan Pardew was not despondent.
"I can't remember being as fulfilled by a defeat for a long time. I'm so proud of the players and I feel so despondent for them to not get anything out of the game," he said.