Critics are right about Arsenal, admits Almunia

Manuel Almunia believes Arsenal have deserved their recent criticism for falling off the pace in the race for the Premier League title but the goalkeeper is confident his side can learn their lessons.

Arsene Wenger's team beat Liverpool at the Emirates on Wednesday while both leaders Chelsea, beaten at Everton, and Manchester United, who drew at Aston Villa, dropped points to give a glimmer of hope to Arsenal's title challenge, especially as they have a slightly easier run-in on paper.

Almunia – who made a fine late save, pushing Ryan Babel's strike on to the crossbar to secure all three points – accepts Arsenal have not delivered on the promise of previous campaigns, the last trophy being the FA Cup in 2005.

"We accept all the critics. Arsenal is a big club and we deserve to be criticised because we have been playing for many years without fighting for the title," said Almunia.

"The team is growing up and everybody accepts it because we cannot say anything when we don't play well. We just go home and wait for the next game so we can win. Against United [when Arsenal lost 3-1] we were not on our game at any time. Against Chelsea [a 2-0 defeat] we played well, but as soon as we switched off a bit, we lost. There are small points we need to improve, not technically or tactically, but personally – little things that we have to show more.

"We were talking about our last two games and we said to each other that it is not possible not to show character on the pitch," he said. "It is not possible for a team who want to be top of the table. We talked more with the players individually because they are young. They are mature, but they need to be told things clearly.

I was talking to William Gallas, Sol Campbell and the others – everyone was helping each other and it is a good attitude. We will be back in the race if we win three or four games in a row."

Arsenal and Hull have been fined £20,000 and £40,000 respectively by the Football Association and warned over their future conduct for failing to control their players in a Premier League match at the Emirates on 19 December when a fracas broke out after Samir Nasri appeared to tread on the ankle of Hull's Richard Garcia.

Hull have settled their legal dispute with former chairman Paul Duffen out of court, the club have announced. City accused Duffen of spending company money for private use during his time in charge. The club also alleged Duffen's company received payments from agents in return for allowing those same agents to negotiate transfers on the club's behalf. The agreement ends the dispute between the two parties.

Gunning for glory? Arsenal's next fixtures

Arsenal's next five league games:

20 Feb Sunderland (home)

27 Feb Stoke City (away)

6 Mar Burnley (home)

13 Mar Hull City (away)

20 Mar West Ham (home)

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