Domingo, 27 May, 2018

Liverpool book ticket to Champions League play-off stage

Graeme Souness 2 SKY SPORTSGraeme Souness says Middlesbrough should have had a penalty against Liverpool
Galena Nuncio | 23 May, 2017, 20:55

It is easy to criticise Arsene Wenger, especially at the end of a league season where they finished in fifth place, their worst position since 1995-96, back when Bruce Rioch was manager and the club was still recovering from the trauma of sacking George Graham.

While Chelsea's run towards the Premier League crown was relentless, Mauricio Pochettino's squad were also gathering a head of steam which in any other season would probably have seen Spurs finish as champions.

For many fans, that isn't too much of a problem - at least Arsenal will be able to compete properly in the Europa League, instead of going out in the last 16 to a Bayern Munich or Barcelona - the problem is the fact that nothing seems to be changing.

"He has been incredible for us", Wenger said. In many ways it showed the sad state of affairs at Arsenal at the moment. "Certainly my personal situation has contributed to that".

Graeme Souness Gary Neville Jamie Carragher
SKY SPORTSGraeme Souness and Gary Neville believe Liverpool were lucky not to concede a penalty

"We can qualify and all that stuff and it will be a good pre-season, so I'm really looking forward to it". "I am professional", said the Frenchman, who has been in place since September 1996.

So it was impressive and surprising that Wenger's reaction on Sunday evening, in his post-match press conference, was to take all the blame on his own shoulders.

Wenger is not ready to give anything away, yet. The competition has provided a buffer against fan protests, with Wenger lifting the trophy in 2014 and 2015.

Guardiola said his first season in the Premier League, "was what I expected".

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Following their win over Middlesbrough at Anfield on Sunday, Liverpool will enter the qualifiers for the Champions League later this summer and will hope to book their seat at Europe's top table. It's the technical department that is responsible for that.

Wenger has thrived on his proud record of being England's constant representative in the Champions League for 19 successive seasons.

This came off the back of Alisher Usmanov attempting to take control of the north London giants over the weekend. With all the defeated play-off contenders sure to make another fist of promotion again next season, not to mention those who fell just short in 2017, picking up the pieces to go again may just prove the toughest job of all.

It is only the second time in the past seven years that Liverpool have reached the Champions League, a tournament they have won more than any English club. "Our points total is decent if you look at it over the years".

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"I believe since January we have played in a very hard environment for different reasons", he added.

Wenger, reflecting on the atmosphere around Emirates Stadium, said: "The psychological environment was absolutely horrendous".

Arsenal's 10 men prevailed courtesy of goals from Hector Bellerin, Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey, with Romelu Lukaku replying from the penalty spot.

Wenger decided against joining his players in that lap, saying: "The players have been disturbed enough".

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