Dec 10, 2013

    Wenger: Arsenal can go the distance


    ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger believes that his side's five-point lead at the top of the Premier League table means that it is impossible to ignore their credentials as title contenders.

    British media pundits have predicted that Wenger's men will fail to sustain a title challenge this season and the Frenchman himself is usually circumspect about his team's targets.

    Sunday's 1-1 draw with Everton at the Emirates Stadium left the north London club five points clear of nearest rivals Liverpool and Chelsea, but they face a challenging run of fixtures.

    After visiting Napoli in the Champions League tomorrow, they go to fourth-place Manchester City in the league next weekend and then host Chelsea on Dec 23.

    It is a sequence of matches that threatens to expose any limitations that Arsenal may have, but Wenger said that his players should draw encouragement from their performances to date.

    Asked if his side should now be considered serious title contenders, he replied: "As long as we are five points ahead, you cannot rule us out, even with the best desire.

    "It shows you that it will be a tough Premier League and the consistency in the end will be rewarded. The consistency is, of course, down to us, to keep this attitude until the end of the season."

    Arsenal were on course to move seven points clear when Mesut Ozil put them ahead in the 80th minute, only for Everton substitute Gerard Deulofeu to give his side a share of the spoils four minutes later.

    Wenger conceded that Everton deserved "credit" for their reaction, but he felt that Roberto Martinez's side were fortunate to escape censure for some robust challenges.

    "I believe the problem is that they put very good pressure on us when we got the ball back to stop our flow," he said.

    "I just felt that when we got out of the pressure and got into the passing, they stopped us every time with a foul.

    "The disadvantage of putting the pressure so high is that if you're not winning the ball back, you can be outnumbered after that. And to be just making a foul without being punished by the referee is a huge advantage, because after that you play 10 against 10 in one half again."