LONDON // Arsene Wenger feels any weakness will be punished in the race for the title this season. The Arsenal manager saw his side make the most of slips by Chelsea and Manchester United with a 2-0 victory at West Ham on Sunday to keep pace with leaders Liverpool, who they trail by four points. But the Gunners had to dig deep for their win at Upton Park. An own goal by Julien Faubert from substitute Emmanuel Adebayor's shot broke the deadlock before the Togo striker wrapped things up in stoppage time as the Hammers were reduced to 10 men when striker Carlton Cole was sent off for a sliding tackle from behind on the midfielder Alexander Song.
Wenger, whose side have already lost twice in the league this term, feels the battle for supremacy this season will be tight, with little further margin for error. "One week ago everyone made Chelsea super-favourites, now it is Liverpool. Things change very quickly, which is why it makes it very interesting," he said. "We were very close last year and with 83 points, many times you would have been champions.
"However, Manchester United had a fantastic second half of the season, we dropped a little bit of our quality and that is it - I still feel any weakness will be punished." Wenger was in no doubt of the psychological importance of the result. "It was a big win for us. To come out with 0-0 would have felt like a wasted opportunity to get closer to the top," he said. "We knew before the game we could not drop points."
Arsenal have closed the gap on second-placed Chelsea to just one point, with United another four back in sixth place. The Hammers, meanwhile, must now regroup and head to Old Trafford tomorrow. But the manager Gianfranco Zola maintains his side are heading in the right direction. "It would be easy for me to have a go at them, but the players commitment is fantastic," he said. Manchester United received two pieces of good news yesterday with Cristiano Ronaldo named FIFPro World Footballer of the Year and Wayne Rooney told he will face no action from the FA for his badge-kissing at Everton on Saturday.
* PA Sport