WE CAN WIN THE TITLE SAYS ARSENAL BOSS ARSENE WENGER
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes his side have the qualities to win the Premier League title this year after seeing them beat West Ham on Saturday.
Despite having Thomas Vermaelen sent off, the Gunners beat the Hammers 2-0 to go top of the table by a point.
“We have a good chance to do it this year,” admitted Wenger.
“We want to win the trophy because we are all conscious we have won nothing yet. The hunger, the talent and I think the nerves are there.”
Arsenal were forced to dig deep to overcome the Hammers in Saturday's evening kick-off at the Emirates after seeing Vermaelen dismissed in the 44th minute.
Referee Martin Atkinson deemed the defender to have been the last man after he pulled down Guillermo Franco in the box.
However, Gunners goalkeeper Manuel Almunia saved Alessandro Diamanti's resultant penalty to preserve the lead given to the home side by midfielder Denilson in the fifth minute.
Captain Cesc Fabregas, back in the side following an injury lay-off, sealed the win from the same spot following a handball by Hammers centre-back Matthew Upson nine minutes from the end.
Wenger was critical of the decision to send off Vermaelen, which rules him out of the Gunners' next match at Birmingham, but praised his side for their display in the absence of the Belgian.
“I felt it was very harsh,” said Wenger. “We have seen this situation so many times in the game without it being punished at all.
“But everybody adapted very well to the situation and technically I believe we were outstanding.
“We played with class and spirit and we kept our nerve when the situation became difficult, so overall we have shown a good attitude, good maturity, and in the important moments in any department we were decisive.”
With Arsenal's main title rivals Manchester United and Chelsea playing on Sunday, against Liverpool and Blackburn respectively, the Gunners could feasibly fall back to third in the table but Wenger is focusing only on his own side.
“We cannot rely on the other results of the other teams, so the only thing we can do is master our own results,” he added.
In contrast, West Ham remain deep in trouble at the other end of the table with Saturday's defeat meaning they are only three points above the relegation zone, admittedly with a game in hand.
Hammers manager Gianfranco Zola felt his side had paid the price against Arsenal for overcomplicating matters.
“I am disappointed, especially after the first half when I thought that we were playing the best game of the season,” he said.
“The key was to keep the discipline because you have the extra man and I told them to keep it simple, to move the ball around until we have two versus one.
“Scoring the penalty would have been a big help because Arsenal would have played different football.
“But they just sat back and played the counter-attack. We just did not use the extra man.”
West Ham face fellow strugglers Wolves, who are only one point and one place above them in the table, on Tuesday and then Stoke the following Saturday, both games at home.
“Our next two games will tell us a lot, especially the next one when we are playing against a team who are more or less in the same position as us. It will be massive,” admitted Zola.
“The players did not look like they had lost confidence, they were playing against one of the best teams in Europe and played some good football.
“We will go into the Wolves game in good shape.”
Meanwhile, Wenger has not given up hope of striker Robin van Persie returning before the end of the season to assist their title charge.
The Dutchman has not played since suffering a serious ankle injury during international duty last November.
Van Persie scored eight goals in 16 games before his injury
“There is still a little chance for Robin van Persie this season,” Wenger said in his programme notes for Saturday's match against West Ham.
“We are following his progress and physically he is quite sharp, but once he is ready to kick the ball again and returns from his rehabilitation, it will still take him another three weeks.
“This means that, even if he came back next week, adding another three weeks on would still take him nearly into May.”
Wenger also revealed that midfielder Aaron Ramsey was showing good progress in his recovery from a double broken leg suffered in a tackle with Stoke's Ryan Shawcross.
The Wales international was back at the training ground on a visit this week to help boost his morale.
“He is walking unaided, which has been requested medically, and is in a better state now,” Wenger said.
“There is no euphoria, but just to get in touch with your team-mates rather than sitting at home helps you when you are in that kind of situation.”