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50-50: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

Champions League 18 hours ago
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By ESPN Staff
Jan 4, 2006

Not battling for title calmed our fight, says Wenger

Arsene Wenger put last night's outbreak of peace at Highbury down to Arsenal's lack of involvement in the Premiership title race.

A largely lifeless 0-0 draw on and Manchester United's final league visit to the famous North London venue was remarkable only for a total lack of spite.

The boiling tempers so often associated with the fixture gave way to a competitive, hard-fought duel from which only champions-elect Chelsea emerged victorious.

Jose Mourinho's men now boast a 13 and 24-point advantage over United and Arsenal respectively and Wenger believes the remote possibility of overhauling the Stamford Bridge outfit contributed massively to the relative friendliness of a drab affair.

'The game was far less of a battle,' said Wenger.

'It felt different and I believe the players were less nervous because we are not going for the title.

'There is also the psychology of playing four games in nine days to take into account but when you look at the number of points we are both behind Chelsea at the moment, it would be fair to say we cannot compete with them.'

The view was also shared by Ferguson, whose side extended their unbeaten run to 11 games yet have still managed to fall further behind Chelsea during that period.

While the Scot is too consumed by the desire for victories and trophies to hand the trophy over to Chelsea just yet, he is preparing for the worst.

'Chelsea's consistency is beyond us,' said Ferguson.

'Eventually we hope to reach that level. We have a young team who will get better.

'You can see what is going to happen to us over the next two or three years and in the meantime we just keep going.

'We want to be the nearest team to Chelsea, just in case they have a Devon Loch moment and collapse. You never know what might happen.'

Even a gambler as renowned as Ferguson would acknowledge the odds on United reclaiming the championship are high.

The Red Devils lack sufficient depth to keep grinding out results in the manner Chelsea have over the festive period and, as a number of missed chances proved last night, do not have the killer touch either.

'I wouldn't say Chelsea have raised the quality of their game but they have retained a great consistency. They are excellent defensively and do not care if they just grind out one-nil wins,' added Ferguson.

Cristiano Ronaldo blazed an excellent opportunity over the bar a minute before the interval, while Ryan Giggs, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Gary Neville all might have converted after the interval.

The nearest either side came to winning was in stoppage time though, when Emmanuel Eboue booted Wes Brown's header off the line.

Four successive clean sheets indicates Arsenal are finding their form defensively again but Wenger's decision to play five men in midfield starved Thierry Henry of support.

The Gunners never really looked like breaking through a stout United rearguard.

'Just now, we are not scoring enough goals and we are not ruthless enough,' said Wenger.

'But we have potential and we are on the right track.

'If you look at Chelsea, they have a mature team. All their players are between 25 and 30. They have power and a lot of self-belief.

'We have a young team and it is important for us not to lose big games. I am not speaking about the title but I feel this result was a positive one for us.'