Arsene Wenger teases Manchester City over former stars


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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger joked Manchester City would try to poach more of his Arsenal players after watching his current crop put his former stars to shame.

Wenger looked on yesterday as the Gunners delivered a potentially-fatal blow to City's Barclays Premier League title hopes with a 1-0 win at Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal have lost Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy and Kolo Toure to Roberto Mancini's men, who have also been heavily linked with Robin van Persie, and asked if he took extra satisfaction as a result, he smiled: "You can take that both ways. Maybe they'll now want some others."

Mikel Arteta fired home a brilliant late winner to lift the Gunners back into the top three and leave City - who saw maverick striker Mario Balotelli sent off in stoppage-time and potentially facing a lengthy ban - eight points behind leaders Manchester United, who had beaten QPR earlier in the day.

Wenger feels Arsenal, who have now won eight of the last nine games, are all set to end what has been a frustrating campaign on a positive note.

"I always felt the goal would come, but it was very tight and in the end you feel it is important not to lose," Wenger said.

"We kept going and at home recently we have produced some outstanding performances against any team.

"I am very happy we got the win and the team continues to grow in quality."

Mancini cut a forlorn figure at the final whistle, as his position will now once again come under intense scrutiny.

Wenger, though, does not believe the title race is "completely" over.

He said: "They cannot afford to drop any points now. Once the team 'smelt the stable', it's difficult for them to drop points.

"In French, you say when a horse smells its stable, it's difficult to stop them."

There was no signs of the sluggish display which saw Arsenal slump to a 2-1 defeat at relegation-battlers QPR.

The Gunners were quick out of the blocks and created enough chances to have been well ahead by half-time, with Van Persie's goalbound header striking team-mate Thomas Vermaelen.

After the woodwork twice again came to City's rescue in the second half, the Gunners were not to be denied as, with three minutes left, Arteta strode forwards to smash a superb, 25-yard drive past Joe Hart into the bottom corner

City finished the match with 10 men when Balotelli - who should have been sent off for a studs-up challenge on Alex Song in the first half which was missed by referee Martin Atkinson and his assistants, but could yet be reviewed by the Football Association's disciplinary commission - was shown a second yellow card for clattering into Bacary Sagna.

Wenger had every right to be furious with Balotelli's early challenge which could have broken Song's leg.

"If the referee had television, he would have given him a red card," the Arsenal boss said.

"I thought it was a bad tackle. I said to my physio, 'What happened to Song?' because he said he was touched at the knee."