Count us in for open title race, says Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger

 

Arsène Wenger insists rejuvenated Arsenal are title contenders again, a decade after their last Premier League triumph.

On Tuesday Wenger will celebrate the 17th anniversary of his managerial reign in pole position after his side capitalised on their rivals’ woes with a 2-1 victory at Swansea.

“We have a chance [for the title] but it is very open,” Wenger said. “You can add Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton to the top four, so it will be interesting. What has changed to years before is that at 80 per cent you will not beat any team in the Premier League. You have to be at least between 95 and 100 per cent and that promises a very interesting season.

“We have the desire, you can see that. It is early stages and we have only played six games but I would have signed up to have 15 points now after losing the first game [against Aston Villa].

“It was terrible to lose the first game but we showed solidarity, a good mental response and desire to improve. We focused on what was important and that is what we have to keep in the team to keep going.”

With injuries to Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott, Arsenal’s depth will again be tested by Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday night.

“We have seven top quality players out but it’s an opportunity for us to solidify our position in the group against a good side,” Wenger said.

If there have been question marks over Arsenal’s appetite for a Premier League title fight, then Aaron Ramsey is demonstrating a renewed strength that could yet prove the missing link. While all about them were losing their heads on Saturday, Arsenal capitalised on their rivals’ sufferings to open a two-point lead at the top of the table.

The revolution has been led on the pitch by Ramsey. Wenger is now reaping the reward of keeping faith in the young Welshman, who is now demonstrating the touch, purpose and class so cruelly curtailed by a horrific injury in 2010.

It has been a long road back but once again the 22-year-old showed courage under fire. Here it was the barracking from Swansea fans directed at a former Cardiff City player. But Ramsey was the driving force, snapping at heels, setting up Serge Gnabry’s opener and scoring himself.

“He [Ramsey] has got his confidence back, which is nice to see,” said team-mate Jack Wilshere. “He can remember that horror tackle. That’s a tough thing to get over and that might have stayed in  his mind for a while, especially if going into a 50-50 tackle. But he’s over that now and he’s a key player for us.”

Champions League: Eye on the opposition

Napoli maintained their unbeaten start to the season ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Arsenal with a 2-0 victory at Genoa on Saturday. Goran Pandev scored twice within 25 minutes for Rafael Benitez’s side, who left Marek Hamsik on the  substitutes’ bench and fielded Gonzalo Higuain only for the final half hour.

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