Arsene Wenger conceded Arsenal’s hopes of ending their Champions League exile are in severe danger after Harry Kane condemned them to a damaging 1-0 defeat against bitter rivals Tottenham.
Kane’s second-half header at Wembley on Saturday left Wenger’s sixth-placed side languishing six points adrift of the Premier League’s top four.
Worryingly for Wenger, that gap could grow even bigger on Sunday when fourth-placed Liverpool play their game in hand at Southampton.
Failing to qualify for next season’s Champions League via a top-four finish would be another hammer blow for beleaguered Arsenal boss Wenger, whose team had to settle for a berth in the far less attractive Europa League this term.
Wenger acknowledged that depressing fate is staring Arsenal in the face again following Kane’s latest act of vengeance against the club that rejected him as a youngster.
“It’s a game we couldn’t afford to lose, it makes it much more difficult,” Wenger said.
“We have to fight, there was more at stake than just the derby, that’s why it’s so disappointing.
“It’s very disappointing because the priority is to be in the Champions League via the top four. “I’m not a big fan of the Europa League winner getting into the Champions League. It’s not right, but if it is an opportunity we have to take it.”
It was a frustrating afternoon for Wenger, whose side were out-played for long periods as new signings Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan failed to shine in their first taste of the north London derby.
Arsenal’s wretched away record against teams in the top five — they haven’t won their last 16 of those fixtures — left Wenger cursing a lack of cutting edge and a defence that wilted when Kane rose to head home from Christian Eriksen’s cross.