Belfast Telegraph

Wenger congratulates Chelsea on title but warns of 'different story' next term

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has stressed it will be a "different story" for Premier League champions Chelsea next season when they have European football added to their schedule.

Antonio Conte's side secured the title on Friday night with a 1-0 victory at West Brom.

Wenger has congratulated the Blues on their success - while also pointing out it makes it two straight years that the league has been won by a club not playing in Europe that season, Leicester having done so in 2015-16.

The Frenchman, whose side face Chelsea in the FA Cup final later this month, said: "(After) what we have seen this season, I congratulate Chelsea for what they have done, but you see as well, when they play in Europe it will be a different story.

"They've done well, congratulations, but in the last two seasons a team that hasn't played in Europe has won the league.

"It will be a different season because they will have to play Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday (due to Champions League matches)."

Arsenal beat Chelsea 3-0 at home in September and had looked serious title contenders.

But subsequent struggles have left them way off top spot in their current position of fifth towards the end of a campaign that saw them get to the last 16 of the Champions League, where they suffered a 10-2 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich.

The English side who made it furthest in the continental competition - the next round - were Leicester, who are 11th.

Bayern have already won the Bundesliga this term, while the two Champions League finalists - Juventus and Real Madrid - are top of Serie A and second in LaLiga respectively.

Asked about foreign clubs' ability to be strong both in Europe and domestically, Wenger said: "I feel in Spain, Real Madrid can win games by playing some at a lower percentage of the maximum than you can in England. Maybe they are as well better than us.

"Bayern is similar - they dominate the German championship in a very easy way."

Arsenal registered their third win inside the space of a week on Saturday, following up 2-0 victories over Manchester United and at Southampton with a 4-1 triumph at Stoke, where they had last won in 2010.

The battle for Champions League berths sees the Gunners three points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, with both having two matches left, and four points behind third-placed Liverpool, who have one game remaining following Sunday's 4-0 victory at West Ham.

While extending their run of wins to five by triumphing in their final two league fixtures may not end up being enough for Arsenal to make the top four, it will see them finish with 75 points - four more than last term, when they came second.

And Wenger said: "Seventy-five points will be a decent total.

"The players have responded after a difficult period. We could have gone divided but we have chosen to be united and that's what you see on the pitch.

"I felt we had a difficult week because we had to play Manchester United, go to Southampton and then Stoke, places where traditionally we have struggled, but it shows when confidence is high and the team is focused, it is possible."

During Saturday's match there was some delightful play from Arsenal, not least when Alexis Sanchez combined with Mesut Ozil - two players with uncertain futures - as the latter put the Gunners 2-0 up.

There were also more calls for the manager to leave, with a plane flying over the ground displaying a banner that read 'WENGER - OUT MEANS OUT!!'

The 67-year-old - still yet to announce whether he intends to sign a new deal to stay on beyond the end of this season - said afterwards he was "not influenced" by such protests.

And when it was put to him that seeing a goal like Ozil's must make him feel like he wants to keep that quality at the club, Wenger said: "I love football based on intelligence, technical quality and collective attitude. These kind of goals of course make you think it is worth it to work on that.

"It's important you try to show the positive aspect of a football game. That's what I try to achieve. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."

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