Wenger retains Arsenal title dreams

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The Independent Football

Defiant Arsene Wenger insists his young Arsenal side have the fight needed to force themselves back into the Barclays Premier League title race - and maintained all was not lost despite a crushing 3-0 home defeat by leaders Chelsea.

Carlo Ancelotti's men - who restored their lead on Manchester United to five points - grabbed a brace at the end of a first half in which the hosts had enjoyed plenty of possession, but without really troubling Peter Cech.

The Gunners, still back in fourth spot, were made to pay when Didier Drogba converted Ashley Cole's low centre, and Thomas Vermaelen's own-goal effectively killed off the contest before the interval, with the Ivory Coast striker drilling in a late free-kick.

There is, of course, plenty more football to be played before they crown the 2010 champions.

But even with a match in hand, it is difficult to see Arsenal - without injured Holland forward Robin van Persie until at least April - clawing back what is now an 11-point deficit, and indeed they could still face a battle to secure a top-four finish.

However, Wenger declared: "I do not think it is over.

"We are fighters and we have to show that in the next game.

"The problem we have to face at the moment is people will not believe in us, so we have to make sure that lack of belief does not diminish our own belief.

"That is where we have to be mentally stronger than we were.

"Because until now, we had some credit which we earned at the start of the season from the specialists, then we a lose a game, so now it will be harder."

Wenger added: "We are still in a very strong position.

"Chelsea can drop points, I am convinced of that."

The Gunners boss criticised referee Andre Marriner for ruling out Andrey Arshavin's effort at the start of the second half for a foul by Eduardo on the Chelsea keeper.

"The turning point was the referee's decision (to disallow the goal)," said Wenger, who used the incident to again highlight the need for instant television replays to help match officials.

"I believe it was not a serious decision, that was very unfair.

"How can he see Eduardo kicking Cech when it was a Chelsea player who stops him from controlling the ball?

"It would have been a very important goal in this kind of game and that was a big mistake by the referee."

Arsenal once again proved unable to combat the threat of Drogba, whose first strike from close range when in off the angle, before drilling in a late 25-yard free-kick.

Wenger said: "Drogba is a great player, but it is funny because he does not do a lot, but he is efficient in what he does.

"At the moment he is in a period where he kicks the ball and it goes in."

Wenger rejected notions Arsenal's problems could be solved by heavy spending during the January transfer window.

"I would rather have all of our [injured] players back," said Wenger, also without Denmark striker Nicklas Bendtner for another couple of weeks.

"I am not in a mood to say straight away after the game that I would buy players.

"We have to deal with and respond to that massive disappointment, and try to win our next game. It is as simple as that."

Meanwhile, there could yet be repercussions from the match being stopped during the first half so the referee could remove an object - believed to be a camera - which had been thrown onto the Emirates Stadium pitch in the direction of Chelsea's England midfielder Frank Lampard.