Arsene Wenger yesterday said the race for the Premier League title starts now, and warned rivals Manchester United and Chelsea that Arsenal are the team with all the momentum.
Wenger's Arsenal play their game in hand tonight at home to Bolton Wanderers and if they win they will overtake United and move into second place, within one point of leaders Chelsea, with a superior goal difference. It would constitute a remarkable turnaround for the club, who were 11 points behind Chelsea and seemingly out of title contention when they lost 3-0 at home to Carlo Ancelotti's pace-setters on 29 November. However, a run of five wins and a draw in their last six Premier League fixtures has put Arsenal right back into the race.
Wenger said: "What we have realised in one month has given us a good springboard to go even further. Why should we stop here when we have taken so many points from our opponents? The race starts after Christmas so I don't think nerves play a big part in December. They play a big part in March and April. It's very interesting that, one month ago, we were far from the top teams but we have created the momentum."
The players at both Chelsea and Manchester United have the edge on Arsenal when it comes to experience, having titles and cups in the past. But Wenger said if it comes down to desire, then he is confident his side will not be found wanting. "I believe we have a great hunger," he said. "It doesn't mean that Chelsea and United have no hunger, but what I know is that within our team is a great hunger for success. We have a great solidarity, a great team spirit. We are a team that has grown up together and wants to achieve things. We have not won anything yet together, which makes us very hungry for success."
The turning point in Arsenal's season was arguably at half-time at Liverpool on 13 December, when they were 1-0 down and Wenger angrily told his players they were unfit to wear the famous shirt. Their response was to pull off a shock 2-1 victory that set up their run up the table. Wenger said the Anfield victory has given his young side greater belief that winning the Premier League could be a possibility. "We refused to give up and continued to fight, believe in our strengths," he said. "The biggest test in our camp was the mental strength and solidarity of the players. That has been tested.
"What happened at Liverpool, when we were 1-0 down and won 2-1; that was more down to the mental strength and quality of the players than my team talk. From that, they've learnt they can change things if they really believe they can."
Arsenal will be without several key players for the visit of Bolton, including Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Gaël Clichy, Nicklas Bendtner, Alex Song and Emmanuel Eboué through injury and international duty. Wenger said he is confident his team will cope.Reuse content