Arsenal: Can Arsene Wenger's Team Seal Top-Four Finish This Season?

Ian Rodgers@irodgers66World Football Staff WriterJanuary 29, 2013

Arsene Wenger has urged his Arsenal players to believe in themselves.
Arsene Wenger has urged his Arsenal players to believe in themselves.Steve Bardens/Getty Images

Arsene Wenger called on his Arsenal players to believe in themselves if they are to seal a Champions League spot for next season after the win over West Ham last week, reported The Independent.

The Gunners boss saw his charges respond with resilience in the FA Cup fourth-round win over Brighton at the weekend after they twice saw their lead wiped out at the Amex Stadium.

Theo Walcott scored the late winner against the Championship promotion hopefuls but it was the steel of the performance as the Seagulls cancelled out Olivier Giroud's goals which resounded with the supporters.

Earlier this season, Arsenal fans had to watch an insipid display against League Two Bradford City that left their hopes of a League Cup triumph in tatters at the quarterfinal stage.

Gunners supporters will each carry with them a particularly scarring memory from the first half of the season, and their delirium at Walcott's goal at the Amex was understandable.

The Arsenal team, though, do seem to be gathering some momentum. The light at the other end of the tunnel may still be that of an oncoming train, but there should be a cautious optimism at the Emirates Stadium.

True, this is not the greatest Arsenal side the fans have witnessed and another transfer window without new recruits this month would foster another period of unease between the terraces and the boardroom, not to mention the dugout.

This season has to go down as Wenger's most traumatic since he took over from Bruce Rioch in 1996. But the soft centre which has seen Swansea and Norwich take full points off the Gunners this term has begun to solidify.

After the visit of Liverpool tomorrow night, Arsenal will have a run of winnable matches in the Premier League next month which could act as a springboard toward a top-four berth. Stoke City and Aston Villa both visit the Emirates in February, while a trip to Sunderland could offer up a three-point haul.

Arsenal will also play host to Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup fifth round where a quarterfinal spot must be uppermost in the Gunners' minds.

The Champions League tie against Bayern Munich is not expected to result in success but with the momentum of a few wins behind them, the North London side cannot rule themselves out.

However, all this is dependent on the Arsenal squad's belief. West Ham were dispatched with consummate ease last week and the win at Brighton was hard-fought. Brighton are a side who have no respect for top-flight clubs' standing, as Newcastle found to their cost.

Defensively, Arsenal are still suspect and Wenger has two days in the transfer market to find a possible solution or stick with what he has, which will have to mean a substantial change in mindset for players such as Per Mertesacker.

Jack Wilshere is still the engine of the team, and the imminent return of Mikel Arteta from a calf injury will bolster Wenger's squad.

But it is Giroud who remains an integral figure to Arsenal's top-four hopes. The Frenchman suffered under the cloud caused by Robin van Persie's departure to Manchester United.

The striker does appear to be making progress out of the Dutchman's shadow and four goals in his last two games offer some optimism for the remainder of the season.

February is going to be a big month for the Gunners and potentially a make-or-break one for Wenger.