Arsène Wenger believes Arsenal can still overhaul Tottenham Hotspur and secure automatic qualification for the Champions League after describing his side's comeback to thrash their north London rivals as "perfect".
Arsenal trailed by two goals as half‑time approached, with frustration welling up among the home support, only to rally and run riot after the interval. The 5-2 victory allowed them to leapfrog Chelsea back into fourth place on goals scored and move to within seven points of third-placed Spurs, whose miserable afternoon was completed by the late dismissal of Scott Parker. The England midfielder will now miss the visit of Manchester United on Sunday.
Asked if his team can still catch Spurs, Wenger said: "It is still possible, if we keep our run going. Why not? Before the game people were saying it was 'impossible' but I always thought it was possible and it would be down to consistency. Everybody in the Premier League can lose points. They have a different schedule to us but, if we continue to play like that, then why not?
"People will see now that Arsenal are alive more than anyone thought before the game. The performance today showed spirit. From the technical side, and with the drive of the whole team and style that we want to play, everything was perfect despite a very bad start. Spurs started well in the first five minutes, but it was all us for the next 85 minutes. We were 2-0 down but refused to lose the game and kept going."
Arsenal registered five goals in 28 minutes here and must conjure a recovery that spectacular – and improbable – against Milan next week if they are to retrieve their 4-0 deficit from the first leg of their Champions League knockout tie at San Siro. Wenger allowed himself a chuckle at that prospect. "We will try.
Unfortunately it's now an international week and some of our players will play on Wednesday, Saturday we're at Liverpool, then Tuesday against Milan. The Africa Cup of Nations just finished and I couldn't start with Gervinho today because he's tired, and yet he must go away now for an Ivory Coast game. It is an impossible schedule."
Harry Redknapp, a prospective future England manager, shared those frustrations which, he fears, could thwart his attempts to inspire an immediate recovery from his side. "People are disappearing off all around the world to play internationals," he said. "We've got people going to Mexico, and one to New Zealand, with Manchester United next weekend. It's a crazy build-up to a massive game.
"But we've got to come back, like we did earlier in the season [following losses to both Manchester clubs]. We need to bounce back and recover. We seemed to buckle after they scored their first, which isn't like us. We don't do that often. It's going to be tight, but we're in a great position. We're still seven points clear of Arsenal and Chelsea and, if we can finish third, that's a great season for us."