Wenger defiant over Arsenal chances
Defiant Arsene Wenger maintains the Barclays Premier League title is "Arsenal's to win" despite blowing the chance to end 2011 level on points with leaders Manchester United.
In what has become a frustrating trait of the Gunners' season, they failed to build on victory over championship rivals Chelsea by being held to a 2-2 draw at relegation battlers Wigan on Wednesday night after a late own goal from Sebastien Squillaci.
As such, Wenger's men remain third, two points behind United, who have a match in hand, and Manchester City, who have played two games more, while Chelsea immediately clawed back a couple of points after ending their poor run of form by beating Bolton.
Nevertheless, Wenger has complete faith his young team can deliver in 2011 - with a trip to Birmingham on New Year's Day swiftly followed by the visit of City on 5 January.
"It is Arsenal's title to win. We have to go on a run and be consistent," Wenger declared when asked whether the championship was now United's to throw away. The only thing we have learnt from this first six months is that the team who will be the most consistent, with great emotional stamina and resolve will win it.
"It could be the league of the mentally strong. It is a league with a lot of ups and downs and the teams who deal the best with that will certainly win it."
Wenger insisted: "We have always been strong mentally, but we have not been as mature as we are now. I think we have courage, intelligence and talent in the squad. To be capable of putting these three ingredients together in every single game will be decisive."
Arsenal would have been clear at the summit themselves but for home defeats to West Brom, Newcastle and arch-rivals Tottenham, when they led 2-0 at half-time.
Yet with his team in the semi-finals of the League Cup, where they will face Championship club Ipswich, and also set for a mouth-watering UEFA Champions League tie against Barcelona, Wenger maintains there are plenty of positives ahead.
"I feel that we are on a good track, we are in a strong position," said the Arsenal manager. "If you make it as simple as you can, our away record is fantastic and our home record needs improvement.
"Recently we have seen that at home we are much more efficient than at the start of the season where we had some hiccups. I feel the team is really on the right track on the belief, on the quality of our game. We have made huge improvements and there is a lot more to come from this team."
Wenger added: "Every single defeat of 2010 is still very painful in my heart and I hope that 2011 will be much less painful."
The Gunners boss, though, accepts his team must cut out the kind of mistakes made at the DW Stadium, where they were leading against ten men. "We have the individual quality and we have to take more initiative on the communication side," he said.
"Sometimes I felt people are not informed enough, when they are alone they could control the ball instead of letting it out. That is just details. A team is always on the search to improve and communicating is one of the natural ways to achieve that."
No transfer plans, expects City to strengthen
Arsenal are, according to Wenger, "not close to signing anybody", with the Gunners boss ruling out a January move for former England captain David Beckham, while confirming Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey would return from his loan spell at Nottingham Forest and Mexico striker Carlos Vela could be farmed out to get some games.
Meanwhile, young centre-back Havard Nordtveit has joined Borussia Monchengladbach in a permanent deal. Wenger, though, expects City to be in the transfer market again, with a reported £30m deal in the pipeline for Wolfsburg striker Edin Dzeko.
"The good thing is that if City buy someone they have to take somebody out of their team who is already a top-level player," he said. "Can they add more quality? Certainly, because they have the chequebook to do it. Will it make them more dangerous? Certainly as well, but they are already a threat for the championship."