Wenger convinced rivals will stutter

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The Independent Football

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger knows full well that no prizes are handed out for being top at Christmas - and he remains convinced the teams above the Gunners will slip up as his men battle to get themselves back into the title race next year.

The north Londoners remain eight points off the pace following yesterday's 1-1 draw with leaders Liverpool at Emirates Stadium, where they played the final half hour with 10 men after striker Emmanuel Adebayor was sent off.

However, perhaps more significantly, Arsenal remain out of the top four, now also behind Aston Villa whom they face away on Boxing Day.

While Liverpool could yet be knocked off top spot by Chelsea, who play Everton tonight, the new year looks set to be a hard battle to prove Wenger's squad have the stomach to somehow claw themselves back into contention.

But the Gunners boss maintained: "The title is won in May and we are in December. Mathematically we will fight until the end.

"I believe Liverpool will drop many points. I am convinced of that.

"They had four draws at home. That means they dropped eight points, why shouldn't they drop eight more in the second half of the season?"

Robin van Persie had fired Arsenal ahead with a fine strike after 24 minutes, only for former Tottenham striker Robbie Keane to equalise ahead of the interval when the home defence failed to deal with a high ball up field.

The flash point, though, came on the hour when referee Howard Webb showed Adebayor his second yellow card for a clumsy challenge on Alvaro Arbeloa.

The African striker hit out at Liverpool defender Arbeloa for acting like he had been "knifed", as he fell to the ground dramatically clutching his face.

Replays suggested Adebayor had indeed gone in with a raised boot, rather than a flaying arm, and as such probably merited another caution.

He said: "I cannot say he cheated, but what he did wasn't fair play at all.

"The defender threw himself on the floor as if I put a knife in him."

Arsenal's frustrations were made worse by the loss of captain Cesc Fabregas at half-time with a knee injury which could keep him out of the festive programme.

Wenger said: "Of course it is a blow. We do not want to lose a player like that, but we have to cope with it."

Liverpool were without manager Rafael Benitez, who was back on Merseyside recovering from an operation on his troublesome kidney stones.

Assistant Sammy Lee hailed his team's efforts.

"Our lads deserve credit as well. After going a goal down we felt we took control of the game and got back into it," he said.

"To come to a place like Arsenal and get a point, you would have been happy before, but we always go out to win the game so we are a little bit disappointed."

Benitez used a phone link with his goalkeeping coach to keep in touch with events at Emirates Stadium.

"His bill will be quite big to be honest. Technology as it is, it was never going to be a problem," said Lee.

"It is great testament to his professionalism because he has been in a lot of pain.

"I hope he can settle down and get 100% right for the schedule."