Despite many around the league having Manchester City at the head of the table, Wenger believes the battle for supremacy over the final 19 matches will be much closer.
‘We have less pressure because everyone expects us to fail,’ says Arsenal’s Wenger
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insists Premier League rivals Manchester City are far from unbeatable and should not be regarded as odds-on favourites for the title heading into 2014.
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has been quick to play up City’s expectations, claiming “they know how good they are” in what could be perceived as mind games ahead of what is expected to be one of the most fiercely contested run-ins over the next five months.
Despite bookmakers all having Manuel Pellegrini’s men at the head of their title betting, Wenger believes the battle for supremacy over the final 19 matches will be much closer.
“Do you believe him (Mourinho) that City are favourites? Not more than Chelsea, for me, or Man United,” said Wenger, whose side were thumped 6-3 at the Etihad Stadium on December 14.
“They have the squad, yes, they have a squad of names who can pretend to win it, but at the end of the day, it is down to what we do on the pitch.
“Are they, at the moment, completely unbeatable? Not for me.
“They have lost a number of games as well away from home. Man City have played one more game at home, than away. We have played one more game away, than at home, so it is open.”
Despite all of their detractors, Arsenal head into 2014 top of the table, albeit with a slender one-point lead.
Wenger joked: “We have a bit less pressure because everyone expects us to fail.”
The Arsenal manager, however, is deadly serious when it comes to his own expectation levels for the team next year.
“Consistency is not coincidence,” Wenger said.
“We had a little blip, I don’t deny that. After (losing 2-0 away in the Uefa Champions League in) Naples, we lost six against Man City, that is where everybody questioned us.
“After that it was important at least not to lose against Chelsea, so we were recovered from that.
“These players have a classy attitude, they are hungry, they want it and are ready to go for it.”
Arsenal have always come strong over the second half of the campaign, just as they did last season to eventually overhaul Tottenham to secure a top-four finish.
It has, though, been six years since they last mounted a sustained assault on the championship.
Wenger feels that has now changed.
“What we suffered from, for me what is the most important, is we looked as a team with less ambition than the others,” he said.
“We were in a position where we sold our good players, and that we accepted to be behind the teams who invested a lot of money. That has changed, and that has strengthened as well the belief.”
Wenger expects full-back Bacary Sagna to take up the offer of a contract extension early in the new year, with the France international otherwise a free agent in the summer and as such so could now agree a move abroad.
“We are not far,” said Wenger. “I will push very hard to get it done, yes.
“We cannot stop him from doing that (signing a pre-contract agreement to leave).
“But for me, that is not a problem because when you are a professional football player, you do until the last day, of where you are, your best. If you don’t do that, you are not professional for me.
“I don’t question Sagna’s commitment until the last day of his contract.”
Wenger is himself in negotiations with the club over a new deal.
However, the 64-year-old continues to deflect any questions over just when that will be signed.
“I want to do well for the club and feel that I can help the club to move forward. My commitment is no question for this club,” he said,
Arsenal will be without injured forward Olivier Giroud against Cardiff on New Year’s Day.
Lukas Podolski, who scored on his return from a four-month injury lay-off at West Ham on Boxing Day, or Nicklas Bendtner are likely to lead the attack in the Frenchman’s absence.
Wenger said: “It is not linked with the individual quality of one or the other, it is more linked with the balance I can find around the team - do I need a wide player who is a winger if (Theo) Walcott doesn’t play and things like that.”