Arsene Wenger is optimistic about Arsenal’s chances of winning silverware this season, but has warned his players and the club’s supporters they still have a long way to go.
The Gunners are top of the Premier League table at the halfway mark of the campaign with 39 points from 19 games, level with Leicester City, but three points clear of Manchester City and four ahead of Tottenham. Traditional rivals Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea meanwhile are all seemingly already out of the title race.
Wenger is not getting carried away, but knows Arsenal are in a good position to win their first Premier League title since 2003-04.
“I’m confident [about our title chances]. There is still a long way to go, though. We’re only half-way. Everyone wants to predict who can win it, but it’s only half-way,” the Frenchman told a news conference.
“We have to rise above that and show we can deal with all that [pressure]. But you cannot rule us out. We are first after 19 games. We are fighting hard to stay there. We have a chance and want to fight for it.
“We have matured and the most important thing is that we know we gave everything at the end of the season. If a team is better than us, fair enough. But we must give everything.
“We have to focus on ourselves rather than looking at who will be our biggest rivals in the title race.”
Arsenal host Newcastle on Saturday as they aim to hold on to top spot, but Wenger claimed Steve McClaren’s men will not be pushovers, irrespective of their disappointing first half of the season.
“Newcastle have had a difficult start, but they have had some good performances in away games,” Wenger said.
“Newcastle are a very exciting project. It’s a huge club with a lot of potential.
“McClaren deserves time. It’s a long-term job. You cannot transform a club of that stature within six months. Patience is not a quality we have much of in society, but you need it in football.”
Wenger will have to make do without the services of forward Alexis Sanchez on Saturday, but combative midfielder Mathieu Flamini is expected to be fit.
“Alexis will be back next week and could possibly play against Sunderland,” Wenger revealed.
“Flamini is ready to feature against Newcastle.”
Jack Wilshere remains unavailable as well, but Wenger is adamant the England international is on his way back and should be able to feature at Euro 2016.
“Wilshere could be back by the end of February, maybe even earlier. The Euros only start in June.”
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