LONDON: Arsene Wenger is still a believer. Whatever the evidence, with Arsenal 11 points behind Leicester with eight games to play, the Frenchman still considers Arsenal as among the league title contenders.
A surprisingly comfortable 2-0 win at Everton eased, briefly at least, the pressure on Wenger after Arsenal’s double exit from both the FA Cup and Champions League.
England forward Danny Welbeck, chasing his Euro 2016 dream, opened the route to a first league win since their victory over Leicester on February 14 when scored after only seven minutes. Teenager Alex Iwobi marked his first Premier start with a first senior goal just before the interval.
Wenger said: “I am not so masochistic enough top consider us out of the race. Let’s go and push on until the end of the season and show we are ready for a fight. We had our backs to the wall and we responded well.
“The character of my players had been questioned and if we didn’t win this game we knew we were out of it. This was a mental test for us. Mathematically we have a chance and a game in hand, let’s not forget, at home.
“We are not flavour of the week at the moment but, if we don’t believe, no-one else will do it for us.”
Per Mertesacker remained on the substitutes’ bench and may not find it easy to regain his place considering the way in which Gabriel and Laurent Koscielny snuffed out the threat from Everton’s in-form, 18-goal Romelu Lukaku.
Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez both regained their form after their form failures of the past fortnight though Ozil had to be substituted in the 74th minute with an ankle injury.
Wenger said later that the injury was “more a kick than a ligament problem” and that Ozil had been replaced only as a precautionary measure, considering his importance to Arsenal in the challenging weeks
Leicester maintained their Premier lead with a gritty 1-0 win at Crystal Palace. They did not play well but snatched the points with a first-half goal from Riyad Mahrez, converting a cross from Jamie Vardy. The Foxes had an escape in stoppage time when Damian Delaney hit the bar.
Manager Claudio Ranieri said: “There are seven matches to go and it won’t be easy. Everyone is talking about us. Not only in England but the whole world. I feel people want us to win the title.”
Cesc Fabregas’s controversial late penalty rescued a 2-2 draw for Chelsea at home to West Ham.
Fabregas scored the Blues’ first equaliser from a free kick in first-half stoppage time and converted the 89th-minute penalty after Ruben Loftus Cheek fell over his own feet. Fabregas’s last Premier League double was in 2009.
Norwich moved out of the relegation zone with a 1-0 win at West Bromwich, their first win in 11 league matches. It was also the Canaries’ first clean sheet away from home. Ireland midfielder Robbie Brady scored the goal though a neck injury means he may miss the friendlies with Switzerland and Slovakia.
Swansea headed towards safety with a 1-0 win which pushed Aston Villa closer to relegation. Villa keeper Brad Guzan failed to clear a free-kick early in the second half and Federico Fernandez pounced to seal Remi Garde’s men’s sixth successive defeat.
Stoke are seventh after winning 2-1 at FA cup semi-finalists Watford. Solid Philipp Wollscheid ‘lost’ Troy Deeney only once, when the striker headed Watford’s late consolation goal.