ESPN FC: Last of Arsenal at the top?
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes those already predicting Manchester City to win the Premier League title this season are getting ahead of themselves.
But while many feel Manuel Pellegrini’s side have the ability to keep hold of first position until the end of the campaign, Wenger has urged his team to respond to their midweek setback by beating Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
“People are always tempted to go to definite conclusions after one game,” Wenger said. “We have played 23 games, we are one point behind City. We are in the second part of the season and have 15 games to make a difference with them. I believe we have our chances.
“What is even more important is we are fully committed to take our chances with full belief. I’m convinced we can do it. We are still very, very close, but we want to respond quickly after having dropped two points against Southampton. We knew that Southampton could be a tricky place to go and it was. The regret we have is we were leading in the game and then pulled back.”
Arsenal face a daunting run of fixtures in February that includes two clashes with Liverpool, a home game against Manchester United and a Champions League tie with Bayern Munich, however, it is a challenge that Wenger is relishing.
“I’m confident the squad is ready for a fight,” Wenger said. “It is for us the ability to focus on the next game, and our ability to recruit all our resources for the next game will make our month interesting. Let’s start with that on Sunday against Palace.”
Wenger and Eagles manager Tony Pulis had several less-than-friendly encounters during the latter’s stint as Stoke boss, but the Frenchman was full of praise for his efforts since taking over at Selhurst Park in November.
“He has done a marvellous job,” Wenger said. “I must honestly say when he took that job, I thought my friend you take an impossible job there, but he has turned it around and deserves credit for that.
“Palace are recovering very well [from their poor start to the season]. They are stable defensively, they don’t concede goals, they have a very efficient game. Recently they have had consistent results, so for us and for them it is a very important game.
“They have stronger belief certainly. They have more stability, defensive stability. Their results and the way they play, I saw them against Tottenham, they were absolutely impressive in that game, so it’s a good warning for us.”
Wenger went on to confirm that he expects Aaron Ramsey to be out for between four to six weeks after a setback in his recovery from a thigh problem, while Jack Wilshere remains on the sidelines as he nurses his persistent ankle injury. Mathieu Flamini, meanwhile, starts the first of his three-match suspension on Sunday.