Arsene Wenger has warned his Arsenal team not to expect any "easy points" in their battle for the Premier League crown this season.
The Gunners head to bottom club Portsmouth on Wednesday night following Sunday’s morale-boosting 3-0 victory over fourth-placed Aston Villa, which moved them to within four points of leaders Chelsea – and with a match in hand on the sides around them.
While the result was somewhat overshadowed by a possible fresh hamstring injury to captain Cesc Fabregas – who came off the bench to inspire his team with a second-half brace before then being substituted as a precaution – a fourth league win from five has dragged Arsenal right back into contention.
Article continues below ...
It is a position which appeared inconceivable following a comprehensive home defeat to Chelsea at the end of November. However, since then the Blues have themselves failed to find consistency, dropping more points with a goalless draw at Birmingham on Boxing Day.
Wenger believes such results go to show just how competitive the top flight will be for the next few months.
"What has changed in the league this season is that all the teams can make results," he said. "You have seen Birmingham against Chelsea. It is like that anywhere.
"It is not that you go there, turn up and take three points. That has gone. "After March, some teams will be safe, or will not go for Europe and you take some easier points, but from now until then in this championship the consistent team will get it.
"We go to Portsmouth on Wednesday and you know it will be another tough game."
Fabregas will have a scan on his injury, picked up when sprinting the length of the field to net a crucial second goal on the counter-attack, but could be facing another spell on the sidelines having been forced to miss the win over Hull before Christmas.
Arsenal also lost Denilson to a back complaint, but could have Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky fit again for the trip to Fratton Park. With Alex Song set to join up with Cameroon at the African Nations Cup next month, Wenger admits he may be forced to consider his options during the transfer window.
"I have said we will keep our eyes open and if a good opportunity turns up we will do it, but at the moment I haven’t got any [names]," said the Arsenal manager, likely to move for a striker to cover the loss of Holland international Robin van Persie.
"I will have to look maybe as well at midfielders and how big the damage is.
"If we lose Denilson and Fabregas we will be short there. I don’t know yet."
Song produced another composed display in his holding midfield role, and Wenger revealed the 22-year-old would be available until after the FA Cup third-round tie at West Ham, although Emmanuel Eboue is set to join up with the Ivory Coast after being an unused substitute against Villa.
"Alex Song will join up with Cameroon on January 4," said Wenger. "The rule is the same – we have to free the players two weeks before the competition starts, which is January 10, but Cameroon have chosen to join up later – that is their choice, we did not make a request."
Wenger, meanwhile, also revealed Arsenal had not yet taken a final decision on whether to pursue their compensation claim against the Dutch Football Association for van Persie’s ankle injury, suffered during a friendly against Italy last month.
"We have made an enquiry, but I do not have the conclusion of our lawyers yet," he said. "Something needs to be done, though, and we are prepared to go as far as we can.
"Hopefully we can set a precedent for the future."