Wenger expects title charge from Arsenal
NORWICH: Arene Wenger remains confident Arsenal can shake off their inconsistent form and mount a serious challenge for the Premier League title. Wenger’s side will attempt to bounce back from last weekend’s surprise loss at West Bromwich Albion when they travel to Norwich City today, five days after keeping alive their hopes of reaching the Champions League knockout stages with vital victory over Dinamo Zagreb. With their European campaign on the back-burner for two weeks, fourthplaced Arsenal can focus on catching unexpected top-tier leaders Leicester City.
Wenger believes that, with no one team dominating the title race so far, his side are still well placed in their bid to be crowned English champions for the first time since 2004. “It is so tight and I don’t even look at the league anymore because it is very, very tight,” Wenger said. “Last week we had a bad result against West Brom and so did Manchester City (against Liverpool) so it compacted the whole table.
“I believe it is a big opportunity for us but many teams can tell you that. We are in a position where you want to be after 13 games but there are 25 to go. “If there are five or six to go and we are in the race, of course we are contenders. I think we have a chance but it is very early. “I know people always want to know what will happen in the future but let’s take care of the game today.” Arsenal’s frustration at losing to West Brom was compounded by the fact they took the lead through Olivier Giroud.
But Wenger insists this was not an indication his side remain vulnerable. “You want to eradicate games like that. For us, it was a bad result. “But in the last 38 games when we scored first, and we were 1-0 up, we won 37 times. in the last 25 games before West Brom, when we scored first we won 25 times. You have to consider that mathematically as an accident. “I believe that we gave everything and that can happen. Football is as well fantastic because it’s not always predictable.” Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin will again be missing after being ruled out for three months with knee ligament damage, while Mikel Arteta and Theo Walcott are also sidelined.
Aaron Ramsey is in line to make his first start since suffering a hamstring problem in late October and Mathieu Flamini is expected to make only his second Premier League start of the season. Alex Neil’s Norwich side suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat at Chelsea last time out that left them in 16th place, three points above the relegation places. But goalkeeper John Ruddy believes there have been enough positives in the club’s recent performances to strengthen confidence ahead of the visit of Arsenal. “Our performances at Manchester City and Chelsea showed we can frustrate good teams. Coming away from those games disappointed with narrow defeats is a good sign for us,” he said.
“It’s now about finding the balance between being defensively solid and still causing problems for teams. “There are a lot of points on offer at this stage of the season, and we want to pick up as many as possible. “That starts today for us. If the crowd are behind us and we play to our capabilities then I don’t see why we can’t get a result.” Ruddy, 29, will make his 200th appearance for the club but admits his displays have been below par this season. “Personally, I don’t think I’ve been as good this season as I have in previous years,” he added. “That’s football, but form is temporary. I’m confident in my own ability as a goalkeeper because I’ve played at the highest level.”—AFP