Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes the standard of the pack chasing a top four finish in the Premier League has been elevated to new heights, but he remains convinced his rebuilt Gunners can hang onto their elite status this season.
Even though Wenger's troops may have hit their stride with a stunning 7-3 win against Newcastle on Saturday, the Arsenal boss suggests the domestic challenges facing his side in 2013 are stronger than ever.
"It is very different to the past as all the other teams have improved, we can all see that," stated Wenger.
"Newcastle went to Old Trafford and scored three times and then came to our ground and scored three times. The technical quality of the Premier League teams has improved and it is more difficult to stop other teams from playing.
"We have a side that is less built to stop others from playing. We are a technical team, so going forward we look like we can create something and this means we have to take the initiative and believe in the way we try to play.
"After that you can win and lose in football, especially in the modern game. You know that you cannot win every game 7-3 and your team has to be capable of winning 1-0 sometimes and I was very pleased with our result at Wigan because we played against a good side and we had to dig deep and were quite solid defensively. So it was a completely different game."
Wenger believes the mental strength of his side was crucial in their big win against Alan Pardew's Newcastle and he is urging them to continue their winning run as they prepare for a trip to Southampton on New Year's Day.
"The biggest thing (against Newcastle) is that we couldn't see any sign of giving up, even at 3-3," he added. "It's not easy mentally to be 1-0, 1-1, 2-1, 2-2, 3-2, 3-3 and we came back again, that is not easy.
"We had to rebuild a team and we have done it. It demands some time and some understanding. How good are we? It will be decided in the next four or five months. I always said I'm confident, because I feel the team is focused, has a good spirit and are united. Slowly we are getting there, but we still have some work to do."