Arsene Wenger says that returning to the Champions League through the Premier League remains Arsenal's priority as his side's 1-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (10 February) dented their top four aspirations.

The Gunners are six points behind fourth-placed Liverpool in the table and could be as many as nine adrift at the end of the weekend if the Reds beat Southampton on Sunday [11 February].

With Chelsea also five points ahead with a game in hand it the north Londoners easiest route to the Champions League could come by winning the Europa League, as Manchester United did last season.

However, the French boss is refusing to give up just yet, though he admitted he derby against Tottenham was a game Arsenal couldn't afford to lose.

"It's too early, yes. Football is not about switching off for three games and then switching it on for one game. Manchester United decided that once they were in the semi-final. We are far from the semi-final and we have to fight to have a chance to come back," Wenger said in the press conference following the defeat to Spurs.

"For me, it's a very disappointing result because the priority has to be to get into the Champions League from the Premier League [top-four finish]. I'm not a great fan of qualifying through the Europa League because I don't think it's right. If it's an opportunity, we'll have to try to take it as well. The priority is still to be in the Premier League.

"It's a game we couldn't afford to lose, of course. That makes it much more difficult now but we have to fight for as long as we have a mathematical chance. There was more at stake than just the derby, I said that before the game. That's why it's so disappointing to lose the game in the way we lost it."

Harry Kane broke the deadlock in the 49th minute of the game and Tottenham had several chances to kill the game thereafter.

However, Wenger said that Arsenal could have also won the game by half-time and lamented his side's inefficiency on the counterattack.

"Possession is basically 50/50 in this game. Firstly, I think the game should have been finished at half-time for me," Wenger added.

"We missed opportunities on counter-attacks that are not missable at our level, due to the final ball. In the second half, we should have lost the game by more than one goal at the start. We were destabilised by the goal they scored and they had two or three more opportunities that they could have scored.

"In the final part of the game, we should have come back to 1-1. That maybe would not have been enough, but would be better than being 1-0 down. Overall, we've got mixed feelings because for long periods in the first half, with a bit more quality in our final pass, we would have won this game."

Arsene Wenger
Wenger says Arsenal should have won the derby by half-time. Reuters