Arsenal Faces Struggle for Third Place After Defeat at Wigan, Wenger Says

Arsenal’s 3-2 defeat at Wigan, after it surrendered a two-goal lead with 10 minutes to play, means the London team isn’t certain even to finish third in English soccer’s Premier League, coach Arsene Wenger said.

Arsenal trails leader Chelsea by six points and Manchester United by five with three matches to play. Tottenham, which has four games left, is fourth, seven points behind Arsenal.

“We have to continue to fight,” Wenger told Sky Sports after yesterday’s game. “Spurs can catch us, Manchester City can catch us. We have to win at least one game.”

Arsenal hasn’t won a trophy since the 2005 F.A. Cup and needs to finish in the top three to get direct entry into Europe’s Champions League next season. Fourth spot earns a place in the qualifying rounds.

Aston Villa beat already-relegated Portsmouth 2-1 in yesterday’s other game to boost its chances of finishing fourth. Villa has 58 points, four fewer than fifth-placed Manchester City.

Theo Walcott gave Arsenal a halftime lead at the DW Stadium and Mikael Silvestre extended the advantage after 48 minutes.

Ben Watson got the home team’s first goal with 10 minutes remaining, Titus Bramble tied the game a minute from the end and Charles N’Zogbia snatched the win in injury time.

“After we went 2-0 up our game lacked cohesion and discipline,” Wenger said. “I always felt that we could be punished.”

The win lifts the Latics seven points clear of the three- team relegation positions.

Breakthrough

Walcott got the breakthrough four minutes before the break, sprinting past two defenders and sliding the ball past Wigan goalkeeper Chris Kirkland.

The Gunners then appeared set for three points when Silvestre headed in from a corner, his first goal since scoring in a 4-1 win at Wigan a year ago.

Watson, who has spent most of the season on loan at Queens Park Rangers and West Bromwich Albion in the second-tier Championship, then collected a pass from substitute Victor Moses before finishing from 10 yards.

Wigan started to pressure Arsenal’s defense and Watson had a header cleared off the line. A mistake from Fabianski allowed Bramble to tie the match as he dropped the ball from a corner.

N’Zogbia then fired a 20-yard shot past the goalkeeper to complete the turnaround.

Villa Victory

“You won’t see too many teams come from two goals down to beat what is a very good Arsenal side,” Wigan manager Roberto Martinez told Sky Sports.

Wigan climbs one spot to 15th, with 35 points.

At Fratton Park, substitute Nathan Delfouneso got his first Premier League goal to help Villa keep alive its chances of playing in the Champions League next season.

F.A. Cup finalist Portsmouth, which is assured of being demoted to the Championship, took a 10th-minute lead from a Michael Brown goal.

Villa responded six minutes later through John Carew, who then missed a chance to put the visitors ahead when his penalty kick was saved by David James.

Delfouneso got the winner with eight minutes remaining, lifting Villa ahead of Liverpool into sixth place.

Two days ago, Chelsea lost 2-1 at Tottenham, while Manchester United won 1-0 at Manchester City. Hull drew 0-0 at Birmingham, Everton beat Blackburn 3-2, Fulham and Wolves drew 0-0, Bolton won 2-1 at Stoke, and Sunderland defeated Burnley 2- 1. Liverpool hosts West Ham today.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Cone in London at jcone@bloomberg.net.

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