A month after Arsenal’s loss to Chelsea left Arsene Wenger’s side 11 points behind the leaders, its title challenge is back on track despite ongoing injury problems.
A 3-0 victory over fellow top-four side Aston Villa on Sunday moved Arsenal to within four points of Chelsea and two of Manchester United having played a game less than them.
Now Wenger hopes to find suitable – and affordable – players to strengthen the squad so the strong form continues in the second half of the season.
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"When you look where we were a few weeks ago, credit to the team, they didn’t give up when everybody has written us off," Wenger said. "We kept going and that shows that the team has shown mental strength. This team is talented, is hungry, has a great spirit and for me they deserve to be successful. However, we have not won yet anything."
Nor anything since the 2005 FA Cup and Premier League in 2004.
But even Wenger is pleasantly surprised at the speed of Arsenal’s resurgence in a month. Since losing to Chelsea, Arsenal has registered four wins and a draw, while the Blues have drawn three, lost one and won just once. During the same period, United has won four, but lost twice.
"I could say we would win our games but you couldn’t predict that our opponents would drop the points," Wenger said. "After the Chelsea game I said openly that Chelsea would drop points on the basis of what I had seen – and they did.
"But how many they would drop I didn’t know. I just think the Premier League is very open."
The congested fixture program around Christmas has worked in Arsenal’s favor, with Wenger now hoping Chelsea slips up against inform Fulham on Monday and a shaky United side fails against Wigan on Wednesday.
"We go to Portsmouth on Wednesday and you know it will be another tough game – what has changed in the league this season is that all the teams can make results," Wenger said. "You have seen Birmingham against Chelsea (drawing). You go anywhere it’s not that you go there, turn up and take three points. That has gone. It has gone – until March. After that some teams will be safe, or will not go for Europe and you take some easier points."
Wenger’s big headache now is injuries, with Cesc Fabregas returning after a two-week layoff Sunday to score twice but then limping off with a recurrence of a hamstring injury. If scans Monday reveal that the captain has pulled his left hamstring again, he could be out for three weeks.
With striker Robin van Persie out until at least April after surgery on his right ankle, Wenger is looking to supplement Arsenal’s firepower in the January transfer window.
"We are in the market with our eyes open," Wenger said. "If a good opportunity turns up we will do it, but at the moment I haven’t got any.
"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."