Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal should not be "ashamed" by their efforts this season – whatever the outcome of the Premier League title race.
Manchester United moved back to within a point of leaders Chelsea following a 3-0 win over West Ham on Tuesday night, albeit now having played a match more. The third-placed Gunners are six points off the pace with 11 games left.
While Wenger's youngsters may have come up short in the direct clashes against the top two this season, the remaining fixtures appear to be kind to the Gunners. Chelsea, meanwhile, host top-four contenders Manchester City on Saturday, and travel to Old Trafford next month.
Wenger – whose side trail Porto 2-1 from the first leg of their Champions League game last week – maintains given Arsenal's relative little comparable investment, to still be in the hunt for the top prizes is an achievement in itself.
"There are three clubs in the fight for the championship – when you see how much money the others have invested, we cannot to be ashamed," Wenger said in the March edition of the official Arsenal magazine.
"There are two main trophies in our job – the Champions League and the Premier League; today, we can still win them both. In addition, the club is in a healthy situation and we have a fantastic young side. If that is still not enough, I can understand, but we are fighting very hard to deliver.
"I believe that Arsenal fans can be very proud of their club, and that is at least what we try to give them – pride."
Wenger added: "We were all bitterly disappointed against Manchester United and Chelsea, but we had the sprit to respond.
"If we had just drawn both of those games, we would be in an unbelievable position, so we are very close – let's give everything in the final games and we will see."
Wenger, though, has little time for pundits who have already written off his team's chances of a first trophy since 2005. "Regardless of outside perceptions, we share a great optimism here about the season," he said. "What other people think is less important – what happens here is the deciding factor, along with how much belief we put into our game. We are in a fantastic position and it is now about how we turn it our way."
Wenger added: "The mathematics are easy – we just have to win our games. In the position we are in, we do not need to calculate – the best way is to win one game, and then win the next one."
Abou Diaby (knee), William Gallas (calf), Andrei Arshavin and Eduardo da Silva (both hamstring) are fighting to be fit for Saturday's late kick-off at Stoke.
Arsenal, fielding a changed side, were well beaten 3-1 by Tony Pulis' side in the fourth round of the FA Cup, and have yet to win at the Britannia Stadium.
Theo Walcott, though, insists it is time for Wenger's men to stand up and be counted.
"These are the sort of games where people will look to us to show our character. We just need to grind out a result," Walcott said.
"People will think we will go there and get blown over, but we need to stand up for ourselves. We need to try to put the FA Cup defeat right. If you get tackled, you just need to get up, because if you stay on the floor, then they know they have won.
"You just have to get back at them, and if you can keep doing that, then hopefully you can win the battle."Reuse content