Wenger demands belief from Arsenal

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The Independent Online

Arsene Wenger accepts Arsenal face a battle to fight their way back into the Barclays Premier League title race - but insists his men must maintain the belief they can win at rivals Chelsea on Sunday and still finish top come May.

The Gunners head to Stamford Bridge 10 points off the pace following five defeats already, and another at the hands of Luiz Felipe Scolari's side would all but end dreams of a first championship since the Invincibles campaign of 2003/2004.

However, Arsenal are now refocused after beating Dynamo Kiev to secure safe passage into the last 16 of the Champions League in midweek and restoring calm under new captain Cesc Fabregas following a turbulent end to William Gallas' reign as skipper.

Wenger, though, accepts the Gunners now have to reproduce their form in "direct confrontations" against their title rivals as they look to build on the home win over Manchester United - their last victory in the Premier League.

"We want to get back into it and the only way to get back into it is to win the game on Sunday," declared the Arsenal boss.

"We know that direct confrontations with top teams become vital when you are in our position.

"I believe seeing the other teams play, we know we can beat them and that is the only way to get back into it."

Wenger accepted: "We are written off. You cannot say when you are 10 points behind that we are favourites to win the championship, but you can say as well the only way we can get back into it is to believe we can.

"That is why we want to go into this game on Sunday by believing we can beat them because we know we can. That is all you want your players to do."

Wenger maintains when his men are on their game, then Arsenal can prove a match for any side.

"There is no team that is not vulnerable, none in the world," the French coach observed.

"First of all we have to go with extreme desire and express our strong points and not hide.

"We can play and win everywhere in the world and we have not to consider too much who we play against.

"We know Chelsea are a great side with great players - but at the end of the day, you beat them if you play at your best."

Wenger accepts Arsenal's long-established position within the top four is no longer guaranteed, with the likes of Aston Villa currently one point ahead of them and surprise package Hull hot on their heels. However, he feels the title race is nevertheless still wide open.

"It is not completely sure this year because none of the teams I see look to be really dominating this league," said Wenger.

"Everybody can drop points and when the team drop points at home that means it is open for everybody."

Deposed skipper Gallas will return to his former club on Sunday, and Wenger backed the defender to weather any potential stormy reception.

"What gets you through everything is your focus on what you love the most - to win the game," he said.

"When you are on the football pitch, no matter what people say, you do not even hear it.

"I believe that a player sometimes will not know that it rained after the game because he is so focused on the game and you forget everything around you."

Despite their troubles in Europe where Chelsea, last season's runners-up, are not yet sure of a place in the knockout stages, Wenger has been impressed by the impact of Brazilian coach Scolari.

"I have known him for a long time and I believe he has done well," said the Arsenal boss.

"He has a big experience and football everywhere is the same - you want to win your games and he has dealt quite well with the problems he faces here."

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