Arsenal back in title race!

IF THE old adage that the league table doesn t lie is true then it can only mean one thing – Arsenal are well and truly in the race for the Premier League title. The latest astonishing twist in what is fast becoming the most exciting tit

By Paul Chronnell

IF THE old adage that the league table doesn't lie is true then it can only mean one thing - Arsenal are well and truly in the race for the Premier League title.

The latest astonishing twist in what is fast becoming the most exciting title battle for years came with last week's results, and the Gunners now trail leaders Chelsea by six points and Manchester United by five.

That is still a sizeable gap, but with 12 games to go and none of the contenders left to play, those who wrote off Arsenal after the twin defeats to United and Chelsea are having a serious rethink.

Arsene Wenger has said all along, even after that soul-destroying defeat at Stamford Bridge 10 days ago, that Arsenal remained in contention. And he hasn't changed his tune now.

"We believe we have a chance and you could see again that Chelsea lost and Man United dropped points [last week] so it is open for everybody. Everybody can drop points everywhere," said the Gunners boss.

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"I don't see any mathematical reason why we shouldn't believe. It can change quickly but for us it is more important to focus on winning our next game than speaking about the title."

Wenger will have spent his weekend off looking at the Premier League table with some degree of satisfaction, not just because of the gap at the top, but also the eight-point advantage now established over Liverpool.

Ironically it is Rafael Benitez's side who may hold the key to Arsenal's title hopes, as they head to Old Trafford on March 21 and then entertain Chelsea in the season's penultimate game on May 1.

Like Arsenal have done three times this season, United and Chelsea may well see off Liverpool, but something will have to give when the top two meet at Old Trafford on April 3.

Arsenal host Wolves on that day, and while this unpredictable season that has already seen Chelsea lose at Wigan and United at Burnley should be enough evidence that there are very few easy games in this division, Arsenal do appear to have a very favourable run-in.

At home Arsenal have been fairly strong this season. The defeats to United and Chelsea aside, Everton are the only team to take a point away from the Emirates this season, and the Gunners will aim to maintain that impressive form against Sunderland this Saturday.

The next three home opponents, Burnley, West Ham and then Wolves are all struggling at the bottom of the table, but that will only make them more desperate for vital points.

Manchester City's visit to the Emirates in late April will be quite an occasion with the return of Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor and Patrick Vieira to north London, while the season-closer with Fulham looks a favourable final fixture.

As ever, it will be away from home where the tough questions will be asked of Wenger's side - no more so than at Stoke at the end of this month.

The trip to Hull on March 13 comes under the same category, while Birmingham and Wigan will also be two difficult away days, as will the derby clash at Tottenham and a meeting with Sam Allardyce's Blackburn.

Mathematically Arsenal seem to be in the race, but unless they can show mental strength away from home, the top two will battle it out once more.

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