Wenger demands title 'focus' for run-in

The Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger believes that consistency will now determine the destination of this season's Premier League title and that his side have the momentum to carry them through. To that end he is demanding the utmost focus from his squad and has suspended all contract talks with players like William Gallas, Sol Campbell and Mikaël Silvestre.

After six successive wins in all competitions, Arsenal next visit Birmingham, where their ambitions began to flounder two years ago. Eduardo da Silva suffered a serious injury, only one game out of five was won and they dropped to third behind Manchester United and Chelsea. At present the race is closer and Wenger is keen to avoid the sort of distractions caused at that time by uncertainty over the future of Mathieu Flamini, Alexander Hleb and Emmanuel Adebayor.

"We focus on the games," he said yesterday. "Now we play Birmingham, Barcelona, Wolves, Barcelona and Tottenham. It is a crucial stage for us. We're not dealing with any contracts because we have games every three days. I feel we're winning the battle [with Gallas] but you have to be ready for anything because he's free to sign anywhere he wants. He knows we want to keep him but it has to be, as always, within our set budget."

Gallas has been out injured for six weeks and with Thomas Vermaelen's appeal against his red card last Saturday having failed, Campbell will have to play a fourth successive game in central defence tomorrow rather than being held back for Barcelona's visit next Wednesday. One bonus is that Robin van Persie, who was in superb form when he injured ankle ligaments playing for the Netherlands last November, could return for the rearranged derby at Tottenham on 14 April.

"We have to get him back to full team fitness and that will take two to three weeks maximum," Wenger said. "After that you need a few games to get back to your best. Physically it looks all good, but after that when he plays in games you have to see how his ankle responds."

After losing to United and Chelsea in successive games at the start of last month, Arsenal were nine points behind and had been written out of the Premier League race. Now they are right back in it with a favourable run of games that includes a home fixture against Wolves next weekend while the other two go head-to-head at Old Trafford. "The priority is to keep the spirit, hunger, desire and intelligence that we have shown," Wenger said. "The target has been to play every game like our life depends on it."

He believes that Chelsea's elimination from the Champions' League, while United and Arsenal face quarter-final ties, could work two ways. "They have a mental disadvantage and maybe a physical advantage in the longer run. I know how hard it is to get over a disappointment like that."

Wednesday's 5-0 win at Portsmouth suggested they are over it, however and Wenger admitted: "It's down to who is the most consistent. We've created fantastic momentum but our route has to be perfect."

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?