Belfast Telegraph

Wenger gunning for Arsenal title glory

Arsene Wenger yesterday told rivals Manchester United and Chelsea that Arsenal are the team that has all the momentum in the race for this season's Premier League title.

Wenger's Arsenal play their game in hand tonight at home to Bolton and if they win they stand to overtake United into second place and go 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 out of title contention when they lost 3-0 at home to Carlo Ancelotti's pace-setters on November 29. 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. Now we have a chance to keep that momentum going.”

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 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 December 13, 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.

“The team gets strength from its history. When 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 learned they can change things if they really believe they can.”

Meanwhile, Wenger said his transfer plans for the January window will depend heavily on the fitness of injured striker Nicklas Bendtner.

Wenger said yesterday that Bendtner, who has been out for two months after undergoing surgery on a hernia, will be assessed by the club's medical staff on Friday when the player returns from a trip to his home in Denmark. If the prognosis is poor, then a new striker will become a necessity.

Wenger said: “Bendtner is being treated now and will come back on Friday to test with him. The real test will be in the next weeks for the projection on Bendtner. If Bendtner is out for two months, there is no way. We need somebody, absolutely.”

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