Wenger: Spurs defeat has not affected Arsenal’s title challenge

Derby defeat has changed nothing, says Arsene Wenger

ARSENE Wenger is adamant that Arsenal are still in the title race in this “rollercoaster” of a season, despite their disastrous derby defeat to Spurs.

The Gunners lost for the fourth time in the league this season – and the third time at home – on Saturday to hand their bitter rivals a first win on enemy soil for 17 years.

But with leaders Chelsea also faltering and losing for the third time in four games, the Gunners are still just two points behind the champions and second-placed Manchester United.

“It’s a rollercoaster at the moment,” said Wenger. “Every team you think are solid and [ready to] go on a run, suddenly they lose a game that no one expects them to lose.

“It’s certainly emotionally difficult for every single manager, but for people who watch this league it makes it more interesting.

“At this stage of the season I never have seen a league as compact as it is at the moment,” added Wenger who admitted that suffering successive home league defeats for the first time in more than 13 years was a big blow to the team.

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“We cannot deny that we missed an opportunity to make a difference on the teams behind us and it’s a big concern, a main concern,” added Wenger.

“But on the other hand, the way the game was run should not make us doubt ourselves because, after the game, it should strengthen our feeling that we have a very important part to play in this league.

“I don’t think [the players’ mentality] is a problem. They have the mentality, they want to win.

“On Saturday some players could not maintain the pace of the game because they played Sunday, Wednesday [in internationals] and Saturday. It’s too much.”

Just six points now separate the top six in the table, and Wenger feels the possible title contenders go right down to ninth-placed Liverpool.

“Tottenham and Manchester City are contenders, you cannot deny that mathematically,” said the Frenchman.

“But you have many other teams who you cannot rule out at the moment. It will be interesting with teams like Liverpool and Aston Villa, they are not out of it and have potential.

“What is most important at the end of the day is to be consistent. I must say at the moment nobody manages to be really consistent apart from Manchester United.

“They are consistent without too many wins. They have not lost yet, but maybe they are the most consistent.”

Arsenal will go top of the Premier League table if they win at Aston Villa in Saturday’s early kick-off (12.45pm) with United hosting Blackburn at 3pm and Chelsea travelling to Newcastle on Sunday.

With injured captain Cesc Fabregas definitely out of the game, Wenger will be hoping that striker Robin van Persie has recovered full fitness after missing the midweek defeat in Portugal to concentrate on his recovery from an ankle injury.

The Gunners will then turn their attentions to the Carling Cup, when Wigan head to the Emirates on Tuesday night with a semi-final place at stake.