Arsenal still in title race after draw, says Wenger

Spurs fight back from 3-1 down in six-goal thriller as Chelsea move up to second

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The Independent Online

Arsene Wenger insisted last night that his Arsenal team were not out of the Premier League title race after they missed the chance to close the gap on Manchester United in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Tottenham in which Arsenal twice led.

Wenger's side are now in third place after Chelsea beat Birmingham City 3-1 last night to move within six points of United with five games to play. Arsenal took the lead twice at White Hart Lane, leading 1-0 and 3-1, but could not hold out against a Tottenham team who finally equalised for the second time through a Rafael van der Vaart penalty on 70 minutes, his second goal of the game.

Wenger said that the title race was "completely open". "We have to get ready for the next game and fight as we do," he said. "This team has a remarkable attitude even if at the moment we are not rewarded with the number of points. We are remarkably consistent. We are on a run of 16 unbeaten games but we have not got enough points, we have too many draws. That is what we have to change before the end of the season."

Theo Walcott gave Arsenal a lead within four minutes before Van der Vaart equalised. Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie scored in the first half but Spurs went in only 3-2 down after Tom Huddlestone's goal. Gareth Bale went off at half-time after a collision with Wojciech Szczesny. Harry Redknapp said later that the new PFA Player of the Year was not seriously injured.

Wenger said that United's games against Arsenal on 1 May and Chelsea seven days later would be crucial. He said: "It is open. Chelsea are back in the race. Chelsea plays Man United, Chelsea plays Spurs. It is open. It is down to us to keep our faith and keep battling and we will not always draw when we score three goals. In the second half [last night] we suffered physically [after Sunday's game against Liverpool]."

Redknapp said that he still believed it would be difficult for Arsenal to win the title despite Manchester United's draw with Newcastle on Tuesday. Redknapp said: "I don't want to say that, that they have no chance. I would not be that disrespectful. But it is going to be hard and you could not really see them doing it now.

"[The difference is ] six points. It is going to be hard. But you don't know. Man United did not play that well [against Newcastle] so you don't know. Chelsea might win every game and United play them and Arsenal. It would not be the first time that we would see big leads turn around. Teams come from impossible positions and you could not be sure."

The Chelsea manager, Carlo Ancelotti, said "everything is open" after seeing his team's 3-1 victory over Birmingham City that moved them above Arsenal and up to second in the Premier League table, with two goals from Florent Malouda and another from Salomon Kalou.

The defending champions are on a run of six wins and a draw in their last seven League games, which has put them back with a slim chance of retaining their title.

Ancelotti said: "Everything is open. If we thought that one month ago we'd have a little chance to come back to fight for the title, I think that everyone could have said we were crazy. Now we are happy because we've reached second place. We await to see what happens in the next five games."

Ancelotti said he would rather be in United's position, but believes his team could yet finish top, particularly as Chelsea must travel to Old Trafford in two weeks' time.

"Our aim is to try and win every game. After that, we can see how our result and our position in the table. Six points at this stage with five games to go will not be easy, but we don't have to think we can or can't do this," he said.

"Our aim is to stay focused on the next five games. After that, we can say if the season was good or not good. Obviously, I would like to be in United's position, six points ahead. That's a lot at this stage of the season."



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