Arsene Wenger says Arsenal are in better shape than recent years to challenge for the Premier League, but has warned against getting carried away before the season has reached its midway point.
Wenger’s men moved two points behind surprise leaders Leicester City on Monday with an impressive 2-1 win over Manchester City, bolstering the view that Arsenal can compete for a first league title since 2004.
Questions have been asked of Arsenal’s mental strength in recent seasons, with Wenger’s sides often failing to sustain their push for the title, but the Frenchman says his squad have improved resilience.
“We lost the first game to West Ham, so we were not absolutely sure we would be two points off the leaders at Christmas,” he told reporters.
“We have been top [at points in recent years] and I think football is pragmatic and nobody can predict what will happen in the next 21 games, so you want to go with the same attitude and spirit and earn the right to win games.
“In 2015, if you look back and try to analyse, we have been consistent and overall we had quite a positive year. We have stabilised defensively and improved our record against the strong teams in the Premier League.
“So it looks like we are on the right trend, the right way.”
Leicester were bottom of the table at Christmas last year but have been the league’s surprise package under Claudio Ranieri this term and lead traditional title challengers such as Arsenal and City at the top of the table.
With the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea faltering, Wenger urged his side to embrace the “positive pressure” of a title challenge in such an unpredictable season.
“Like everyone else, the real pressure is not to go down. The rest is positive pressure,” he added. “Who will win? No-one knows. I work for a long time in football and no-one can tell you who will win.
“It’s down to being pragmatic and putting effort in, worrying about your performance. That gives you a better chance but it’s too early to say who will win.
“We’ve played 17 games, we’re not even halfway. We are certainly more resilient and more solid at the back than we were when we had younger teams but confidence is linked with history.
“We had two or three good results but confidence is built up slowly and goes very quickly. Let’s just take care of the next performance.”
Arsenal visit Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday.