FOOTBALL : Defiant Arsene Wenger insists his young Arsenal side have the fight needed to force themselves back into the Barclays Premier League title race – and maintained all was not lost despite a crushing 3-0 home defeat by leaders Chelsea.
Defiant Arsene Wenger insists his young Arsenal side have the fight needed to force themselves back into the Barclays Premier League title race – and maintained all was not lost despite a crushing 3-0 home defeat by leaders Chelsea.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men – who restored their lead on Manchester United to five points – grabbed a brace at the end of a first half in which the hosts had enjoyed plenty of possession, but without really troubling Peter Cech.
Wenger declared: “I do not think it is over. We are fighters and we have to show that in the next game. The problem we have to face at the moment is people will not believe in us, so we have to make sure that lack of belief does not diminish our own belief. That is where we have to be mentally stronger than we were.”
The Gunners, still back in fourth spot, were made to pay when Didier Drogba converted Ashley Cole’s low centre, and Thomas Vermaelen’s own-goal effectively killed off the contest before the interval, with the Ivory Coast striker drilling in a late free-kick.
There is, of course, plenty more football to be played before they crown the 2010 champions.
But even with a match in hand, it is difficult to see Arsenal – without injured Holland forward Robin van Persie until at least April – clawing back what is now an 11-point deficit, and indeed they could still face a battle to secure a top-four finish.
But Wenger added: “We are still in a very strong position. Chelsea can drop points, I am convinced of that.”
The Gunners boss criticised referee Andre Marriner for ruling out Andrey Arshavin’s effort at the start of the second half for a foul by Eduardo on the Chelsea keeper.
“The turning point was the referee’s decision (to disallow the goal),” said Wenger, who used the incident to again highlight the need for instant television replays to help match officials. “I believe it was not a serious decision, that was very unfair.
“How can he see Eduardo kicking Cech when it was a Chelsea player who stops him from controlling the ball? It would have been a very important goal in this kind of game and that was a big mistake by the referee.”