Wenger knows Gunners are off the pace

 

Arsene Wenger is aware Arsenal have a lot of ground to make up before
they can be considered as Barclays Premier League title contenders.

Yossi Benayoun's late goal enabled Arsenal to beat Aston Villa 2-1 last night, bouncing back from their 1-0 reversal against leaders Manchester City at the weekend.

But manager Wenger's team are still 12 points adrift of Roberto Mancini's City side heading into Christmas, and the Frenchman concedes challenging for a Champions League spot is more realistic than aiming for top spot at present.

Wenger said: "We are out of the title race as things stand because we are very far away from Manchester City.

"It was important to get back on track at Villa, a place which is always difficult to go to, but it is too early to say we are back in the title race.

"But then we've just had two difficult away games in succession while City have had two home matches they've won."

Wenger added: "If we can get back to within six points of City, then you can start to speak about being title contenders.

"As things stand, we are still in a good race for the top four."

Wenger admitted Villa were unfortunate to suffer their second home defeat in four days but again praised the character of his players.

He said: "A draw would maybe have been fair but we kept going and took our chance when we had an opportunity.

"Villa showed outstanding commitment and quality and they are a good side when they play with that sort of attitude.

"When they are like that, they can beat anyone and we had to be resilient to win the game.

"Our formidable spirit got us through."

Arsenal were due to tackle Wolves on Boxing Day but that home game was today put back by 24 hours, owing to the threat of industrial action by London Underground drivers, and the effect on transporting supporters around the capital.

Such a delay is unlikely to stop Arsenal striker Robin van Persie in his tracks.

With his penalty in the win at Villa, Van Persie equalled Thierry Henry's club record of 34 Premier League goals in a calendar year.

And the Dutchman believes there will be many twists and turns before the outcome of the title is resolved.

Van Persie said: "It is still early. We've only played 17 games, we're not even halfway so anything can happen in this league."

Arsenal have lost 8-2 at Manchester United and won 5-3 at Chelsea already this season.

"Our result against Manchester United was a bit of a surprise, our result away at Chelsea was a big surprise, and then Manchester United lost to Manchester City 6-1 so anything is possible," Van Persie said.

"The way we look at it is that we challenge for every single game and we will see what that will bring us."

As for the title, Wenger said: "I don't think Manchester City now, or Manchester United, or whoever, is thinking about that.

"It is still early and you look at it from game to game."

Van Persie was delighted for Benayoun to score the winner with a rare header from his corner with just three minutes remaining.

He joked: "It was really good for Yossi as well because he has been training unbelievably, trust me.

"Everyone was hoping for him to get a chance and he took it. Everyone is so pleased for him."

Van Persie admitted Arsenal came through a searching examination to overcome a Villa side who produced their best home performance of the campaign.

He said: "It was a tough game. You always know that away at Villa it is always tough.

"I think you could see from our goals, it showed that it was a hard game because we scored from a penalty kick and a corner kick, not from open play.

"Villa played well, they have a really good team, so I'm happy that we won the game the way we did."

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz