JOHN RADFORD: Champions League success would put us in dreamland
Arsenal legend John Radford has tipped his former club for a blinding final two months of the season – and an end to their four-year trophy drought. As a new-found optimism flows through the Emirates, an unwelcome international break is not what Arsene
Arsenal legend John Radford has tipped his former club for a "blinding" final two months of the season - and an end to their four-year trophy drought.
As a new-found optimism flows through the Emirates, an unwelcome international break is not what Arsene Wenger ordered.
Three Barclays Premier League wins in a row have even got him talking, in his own words, 'a little crazy' about a late, late title tilt.
With Aston Villa now floundering in Arsenal's slipstream, stuttering leaders Manchester United, ten points ahead and with a game in hand, remain just about visible on the horizon.
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"I still have hope because I am a little bit crazy," said Wenger in half-jest after last weekend's impressive 3-1 win at Newcastle United.
When asked if his side can win their first title in five years, the Frenchman responded: "Realistically, no. But it does not matter how much chance that we have, we have to get as close as possible.
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"We have seen worse. The best way to achieve things is to keep the spirit and desire in the team - then you never know."
Radford laughs at the idea and says Arsenal fans should be more "realistic" than to think they can reach the league summit in May, but the knockout competitions are a different kettle of fish.
"We're still in the FA Cup and Champions League, and the way we are beginning to get our act together, I honestly think we can win one, if not both of them," Radford, a 1971 Double-winning hero, tells Ham&High Series Sport.
"It's all, finally, beginning to happen for us. I actually reckon we have got a better chance in the Champions League where we fear nobody.
"The top clubs don't really worry us because when we play them we step up to the mark, no fear.
"We are due a trophy or two and we could be heading for a wonderful climax to the season. The real Arsenal are beginning to show themselves - this could be a blinding few weeks for us."
And he is certain any hopes Aston Villa have of gatecrashing the top four at Arsenal's expense died when they were hammered 5-0 at Anfield last Sunday - a result Radford claims he had predicted.
"I watched the Liverpool v Villa game with my wife and just before kick off she asked me for a prediction. I turned to her and said they'd get beaten out of sight, 5-0. Why didn't I stick a tenner on it? I've even got an account with the bookies," he smiles.
"Seriously though, we're dead certs for the top four but then I have said as much all along.
"Everton worried me more than Villa for a short while but not now. I just don't fancy Villa - and I never doubted we'd overtake them, eventually.
"Now we are looking up the table at the top three and although Liverpool are bombing along after some amazing results in recent weeks, Chelsea are limping after that loss at Spurs.
"The title? Well, Wenger is confident of his team all the time and while there are points left to be played for we can hope, but just to finish in the top four, after all we have put up with this season, would be brilliant.
"And who knows? Maybe we can finish higher. It is in our reach and we have to be confident."
And with the Gunners seemingly scoring at will again, what has changed in the past month? Radford, one of a select group of players to have scored more than 100 times for the club, thinks long and hard.
"Why are we scoring again? God knows? They do this to us don't they... having their little blip," he laughs.
"But then, it's no coincidence that players are coming back and we still have Cesc Fabregas to return, hopefully against Manchester City next Saturday, but at the same time a lot of other players have just clicked and found their form at the right time.
"And this IS the right time... if Wenger could bring home the Champions League, a trophy this club needs and deserves, it would be the dreamland.
"I'm incredibly excited, and confident, about our prospects between now and the end of May."
As is Spanish goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, whose improvement in goal mirrors his defensive colleagues' sharp upturn in form since the New Year, which has seen him keep six clean sheets in ten league games since January 1.
He is one of the few Gunners to remain at London Colney, along with injured trio Fabregas, Theo Walcott and Eduardo, during the international break after being overlooked by Spain again.
Instead, he is 100 per cent focused on Arsenal's next league outing at home to Manchester City on Saturday week - and issued a rallying cry to Arsenal followers to back their side for the final push for silverware.
"Now is our moment because no-one is talking about us and we are coming back," he said this week.
"The fans have to be optimistic. We keep going, we have time to do important things but now the most important thing is to win against Manchester City.
"There is time, there are eight games left in the league and we can do something important, and we are also in the Champions League."