Wenger: We can silence doubters
Arsene Wenger always felt it would take time for Arsenal to become genuine title contenders - and suspects some still doubt their credentials.
The Gunners kept up the pressure on Premier League title rivals Manchester United and Chelsea when they overcame the dismissal of defender Thomas Vermaelen to beat relegation-battlers West Ham 2-0 at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Although Wenger's men were back down into second place following Sunday's games which saw United beat Liverpool 2-1 and Chelsea draw at Blackburn, only four points now separate all three challengers.
Given United and Chelsea, who still have a match in hand, clash at Old Trafford over Easter, Arsenal are very much in the hunt for what would be a first championship since their unbeaten campaign of 2003/2004.
That is an achievement in itself given the way the Gunners' campaign looked all but over six weeks ago following successive defeats to United and Chelsea.
However, Wenger's youngsters have since chalked up half a dozen wins in a row, the last two showing real character.
Many thought the Arsenal manager somewhat deluded when he confidently predicted the title race was far from over in the wake of those comprehensive defeats by their rivals.
Wenger, though, never lost the unwavering belief in his team to deliver their potential, but accepts some people will not be convinced unless Arsenal finish top of the pile come May 9.
"If you had listened to all of the predictions, then we should not have even bothered starting the championship," the Frenchman said.
"When we lost against Chelsea at home, and then later against Manchester United here, which I must say was in a convincing way, everybody got a little bit carried away.
"You lost against one of the main contenders so convincingly, therefore nobody takes you seriously after that.
"They do not take you seriously for a while afterwards - and some do not even now. It takes a while to convince people again."
Wenger continued: "You could not predict that Chelsea would drop the points they lost. Of course, if they had a perfect run-in, then you could not fight for the title.
"But it was important for us not to give up.
"We have a young team and if we want to have a future, then we have to show mental quality and not give up, no matter what happens.
"That is what I wanted to carry on saying to the players.
"I still believe it is important for the players not to give up and to keep going.
"I was always happy to work with the squad. They kept a great attitude in training and are always focused."
Arsenal would appear to have the easier run-in, but Wenger maintains there is no margin for error in their remaining seven matches.
"With the results we are making, we can only go from game to game - but we have the desire, we have the quality and let's see how far we can go," he said.
"I believe we can go and win the next games. We have that kind of attitude - we keep pushing for the win rather than the draw.
"We are nearly there to finish for the top three and qualify directly for the Champions League again.
"The next step is to go for the championship and to have a chance in that we absolutely have to win all of our games.
"We are in a strong position, but we have to focus on our quality and continue to improve. Let's be better in our next game.
"We can show to people that we have improved our consistency - we can turn up every week and win the game.
"I don't know where we will finish, but let's go for it."