Arsenal V West Ham at Emirates Stadium : Match Preview
Arsene Wenger remains coy on future and insists he's not been set top-four goal
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insists he has not been set the target of a top-four finish this season.
The 67-year-old is still yet to announce whether he will remain at the Emirates Stadium beyond the end of the campaign and said he is "not scared" as protests against his reign continue.
Wenger has never finished outside the Premier League top four since taking over in September 1996 but, with just one league win since February, the Gunners now sit sixth.
A handful of fans displayed banners at the entrance to the club's London Colney training ground on Tuesday morning.
This follows a third pre-match protest, which took place ahead of Sunday's 2-2 draw with Manchester City, but Wenger continues to wait to publicly declare if he will sign a new deal or depart at the end of the campaign.
He has said the decision is made but was again less than forthcoming when asked about the situation at his pre-match press conference ahead of this week's home match with West Ham.
"I have answered that question many times," he said. "I can understand that you ask again. Don't worry, you will get that (answer) soon."
It now appears that qualifying for the Champions League by finishing in the top four is not a prerequisite for either Wenger or the Arsenal board.
Asked if he had been set a specific target, the Frenchman replied: "No.I tell myself to finish as high as possible... It (finishing in the top four) is a good challenge but I think it's perfectly possible."
Wenger feels his years of guiding the Gunners into the top four will help achieve the same feat this season, even if they are seven points adrift ahead of Wednesday's visit of the struggling Hammers.
"The experience will play a part, of course, but I think it is just about sticking together and continuing to fight," he said.
"If we show the same spirit we showed against City, we will win football games."
The Gunners will be without Laurent Koscielny (Achilles), while goalkeeper Petr Cech (calf) and Lucas Perez (thigh) are also missing.
Santi Cazorla (Achilles) will not play again this season but both Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could shake off knocks to be involved.
Meanwhile, Slaven Bilic has confirmed that West Ham will offer Michail Antonio an improved contract this summer.
Antonio, who is set to return from a hamstring injury at the Emirates, has been the Hammers' star performer this season and the club are determined to keep him in east London.
The 27-year-old England midfielder had already been tied down to a long-team deal, but the new terms will reportedly see his salary climb to B#65,000 per week.
"The club and chairman appreciate the job he has done for us," Bilic said.
"The club is offering him a new contract definitely, for sure, this summer. He wants to stay. To be fair, he has a long contract anyway, it's not like he has one year left."
Antonio has been sidelined since the 3-2 defeat to Leicester on March 18, his hamstring problem forcing him to withdraw from the England squad for the recent internationals against Germany and Lithuania.
However, he will feature as West Ham attempt to end their four-match losing run when they travel to Emirates Stadium on Wednesday evening.
"Antonio has trained the last couple of days. He is definitely going to be involved in the game, whether he starts or not, we'll see," Bilic said.
"It's a big boost for us because we are talking about our best player. He makes a difference week in and week out.
"He's been doing that all the time and it's a big boost for us ahead of a game like Arsenal."
West Ham's Aaron Cresswell will miss the next two games with a thigh injury but Diafra Sakho could be on the bench for the first time since suffering a back injury in November.