Returning players like new signings says Wenger

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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger believes the return of Theo Walcott could feel like a new signing and boost Arsenal for what is set to be a make-or-break run of games.

The Gunners could go top of the Barclays Premier League tonight with victory over struggling Bolton at Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal were 11 points adrift of Chelsea after being thumped 3-0 at home at the end of November, but have hauled themselves back into the title race following a run of six wins in eight, while their rivals struggled for consistency.

The Arsenal manager having Walcott - back from a rib problem and who has made only 10 appearances - available again along with the imminent rehabilitation of striker Nicklas Bendtner from groin surgery - can make a real impact as his squad gear up for a crucial few weeks which will see them face Aston Villa, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool.

"We are not close to signing anybody at the moment and we are so focused on the game that we forget a little bit to speak about transfers," said Wenger.

"We have so many players out that our talks are more focused on 'when is he back, when he is back' and it looks like any player we can get back is like a transfer because we have not seen some players this season - like Walcott, like Bendtner.

"They can be fresh for the second part of the season and they can give us a big push."

Although beating Bolton for the second time in four days could send his men above Chelsea on goal difference, having then played the same amount of games, Wenger is not about to put the champagne on ice just yet.

"It has a psychological meaning, that we are there and to fight at the top of the table, but mathematically it has not too much significance because it is a long way to go," Wenger told Arsenal TV Online.

"I am not stupid. We have won nothing yet.

"Yes, we have won some credibility. However, that is not enough.

"We want more, at least we are in a position to fight for it and have a go.

"That is what we want to do, but we know as well that there is a long way to go.

"I have the confidence that my team will give absolutely everything.

"I trust their hunger, I trust their appetite and I trust their spirit."

Wenger added: "It gives a lot of credit to the players that despite all which has happened, we are still there.

"That is the only step we have definitely made - everybody wrote us off and we are back in it."

Wenger admits it is strange to, by a quirk of the fixture schedule, to play the same opponents again so quickly.

"To surprise them is difficult because everybody knows you cannot change too much the way we play football from one day to the next, so they know," he said.

"We will certainly play with a higher collective pace, at a higher team tempo than we did on Sunday, because we will be at home.

"Our fans will be certainly behind us and that makes us at home in an even stronger position, because our fans can help us win matches."