Arsenal boss plays down talk of pressure for league leaders
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Arsene Wenger insists his Arsenal side are under no particular pressure as they strive to end the club’s eight-year trophy drought.
The Gunners have led the way in the Premier League since September, fuelling optimism that they can finally bring a first piece of silverware to Emirates Stadium this season.
Highbury was still home when Arsenal last secured a major trophy – the FA Cup in 2005 – and next May will mark the 10th anniversary of the last time they were champions of England.
Even a genuine title challenge by the Gunners has become something of a rare animal in recent years, but Wenger says the lengthy hiatus since their 2004 success has no bearing on his side’s current prospects.
“When I arrived here people explained that I couldn’t win the title because I was foreign!” the Arsenal boss reflected.
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“Everybody has his own logic, but you win the title through quality.
“If we haven’t won the title for eight years it is because we weren’t good enough at the important moments of the season.
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“Now we have a good opportunity to show that we are good enough, so let’s take it. What is at stake is how can we bring up the quality of our concentration, our focus, into every single game.
“There’s no specific pressure – there’s a desire. We want to be where we are and what is important is that we continue to play well and to maintain that desire.”
Arsenal’s seizure of pole position has been aided by a lack of consistency from some of the more fancied title candidates, with Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea all adapting to life under new management.
With the likes of Liverpool, Everton, Southampton and latterly Newcastle all figuring in the upper echelons of the table, the field appears to be more tightly packed than it has done for some time.
“It took some teams time to settle – now they look more consistent,” said Wenger. “The difference between numbers one and 20 in the Premier League has shrunk in the last five or six years.”
The truth of that statement was highlighted on the first day of the season, when the Gunners slumped to a 3-1 defeat by Aston Villa, a side that had spent much of the previous campaign battling relegation.
Yet since that dark day, when fans vented their frustration at Wenger, the mood among the Emirates crowd has been far more benevolent – which, according to the manager, has also been a significant factor in the team’s improvement.
“There’s certainly more support from the stands than there was last year at the same period, that is for sure,” added Wenger.
“It can be a massive advantage because when we have a difficult patch during a game, our fans respond and support the team.
“Last year it was about moaning when we had a weak period in the game.
“That makes a massive difference – you feel that at the moment. It gives them [the players] more belief and desire as well.”