Wenger confident of top-four finish

Arsene Wenger remains confident Arsenal have the strength of character needed to force themselves back into the top four of the Barclays Premier League.

The Gunners head to Sunderland this weekend on the back of a 7-1 thrashing of Blackburn at Emirates Stadium, which was a welcome first league win of 2012 and reduced the gap on fourth-placed Chelsea, who drew with Manchester United, to three points.

Wenger’s men are set to host four of the five sides currently above them over the coming weeks, and the Arsenal manager feels the team can produce the needed consistency.

"We still have real hope that we can finish the season the strongest," the Arsenal manager said, quoted on the club’s official website.

"We have a good spirit and desire within the group – and we have quality.

"We know that with the position we are in we need an exceptional consistency, so that is the challenge we have in front of us at Sunderland."

Arsenal’ defensive worries have eased somewhat in recent games with the return to match fitness of Bacary Sagna, while fellow full-back Kieran Gibbs is also close to being in contention again after his groin problems.

Switzerland international Johan Djourou did not feature in the squad for Blackburn.

The 25-year-old, though, appears to remain very much part of Wenger’s plans, with the Switzerland Football Association posting an article announcing Djourou – who came up through the Arsenal youth ranks – had agreed a contract extension until 2015.

Press Association Sport understands confirmation will come from Arsenal later today.

Djourou, who posted a link to the story via his Twitter account, said on http://www.football.ch: "I like this club and I want to stay here as long as possible.

"I currently work in the background, waiting for another chance to show my potential. I have confidence in the future."

One player, however, who does not appear to view his long-term future at Arsenal is striker Carlos Vela, currently on loan at Spanish club Real Sociedad.

The 22-year-old Mexico international failed to break into the Gunners first-team regularly and said in El Diario Vasco: "I would stay at Real. I am happy and the people support me.

"I owe Arsenal affection and gratitude for the opportunity that they gave me, but I was not happy there and this affected my work.

"It was hard day to day and, when it came to training, I was thinking about going home. Here, however, I am happy and have made good friends."

Vela added: "It is too early to talk about these issues, but I do not close the door to Real. However, if you cannot reach an agreement with Arsenal, you cannot do anything.

"As I said, I’m happy here and would like to help the team stay up, then we will see what happens in the summer. Right now, we cannot do anything even if we wanted to."