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Jan 17, 2014

Arsene Wenger enjoying title challenge

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is relishing challenging for the title alongside big-spending Manchester City and Chelsea, despite admitting that the Gunners “cannot compete” financially with the two clubs.

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Wenger’s side head into the latest round of Premier League fixtures at the top of the table, one point clear of second-placed City and two ahead of Chelsea, who sit in third.

And although Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho’s teams have an advantage when it comes to spending power, the Gunners boss says he is enjoying competing with the clubs this season.

“People make Man City the favourites or Chelsea the favourites and we can accept that,” Wenger said. “We have an opportunity to convince people that we are serious about what we can achieve. You can convince people two ways: the quality and consistency of performances and results.

“In terms of resources, we cannot compete because they have unlimited resources, but with our resources available, we are ready to compete.

“Consistency is important and if you look at the last 12 months, we have had that. We need consistency against the teams in the bottom half and also some outstanding results against the top teams.”

Wenger believes his side’s defensive solidity is key to their title hopes this season, and paid a special tribute to the leadership skills of centre-back Per Mertesacker.

“We are seeing a real leader coming out,” he said of Mertesacker. “It was always in him, but he is more confident in his own game. He knows better his teammates and he has developed as a player.

“Compare the Mertesacker who arrived here and the stature he has today, he is a completely improved player. He puts focus into every training session. He maintains the focus in the team and this is the sign of a leader.

“What you need is stability defensively. You have seen that again against Cardiff [in the 2-0 win on New Year’s Day]. We didn’t concede and in the end, we are capable of scoring goals.

“One target in the second half of the season is for us to be strong at home because we have some big games. One of them is tomorrow against Fulham. Now we go into a part of the season where every game becomes massive.”

Wenger stated his belief that Fulham would win their battle to avoid relegation this season, ahead of their visit to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

“They have had ups and downs,” he said of the Cottagers. “They look to be capable of making exceptional results, but this year they suffered more at home than usual.

“Away from home, they have been quite dangerous, but at home they have not produced what they have done before, but I am sure they will stay in the league.”

Wenger confirmed that Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta will miss the game against Fulham, but he is hopeful that both Nacho Monreal and Tomas Rosicky will be available after picking up injuries during the 2-1 win at Aston Villa on Monday. The latter is currently wearing a mask to protect his nose after injuring it at Villa Park.

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