Arsène Wenger may be in a minority of one at the Emirates by claiming Arsenal can still challenge for the Premier League title. After his side threw away a 2-0 lead to draw 3-3 at home against Fulham, a defiant Wenger insisted that the Gunners – who have made their worst start to a campaign since the 1982-83 season – can still trouble the top of the table: "I feel yes, of course. Yes, why not?"
But, given his midfielder Jack Wilshere's comments before the game that it would take a "minor miracle" for Arsenal to challenge for the title, it seems Wenger, renowned for his supposed short-sightedness when it comes to incidents on the pitch, is now suffering from a clear case of denial.
Belief, though – or perhaps just mental resilience – appears to be the key issue with the Arsenal team at present. On the day when the leaders Manchester United came back from 2-0 down to secure a fine late win at Aston Villa, Arsenal themselves surrendered the same lead before failing to convert a late siege into a big win as Mikel Arteta missed a penalty.
The manager, however, at least attempted to explain his assertion. He thinks the recent drop-off is down to no more than fatigue. "I think we had three difficult games this week, especially the first two," he said. "We had to recover from Man United where we didn't exist a lot and then we gave it all at Schalke. We overall had a good game for a team that has played Champions League on Tuesday but we were maybe caught a bit on lack of complete urgency when you're 2-0 up."
More interestingly, after Arsenal's backline was completely exposed and often embarrassed by the excellent Dimitar Berbatov, Wenger complained that he doesn't have time to solve any defensive issues and again criticised this week's international fixtures.
"There is no time to train on it because the players go away every three days and you cannot practise too much... there is never a week where you have completely to prepare for the next game. It's part of being at Arsenal.
"I think [the international fixtures are] bad for us. I would prefer the team stays here and prepares for our next game. There's a risk as well with the players that have played three games. You play another one and another one."
Next up for Arsenal is the derby against Tottenham. "It's always huge, no matter what's happening," Wenger stated.