x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Wenger believes Arsenal back in title hunt

Arsene Wenger believes the Premier League title race will go to the wire after seeing the Gunners ambitions boosted by the win over Liverpool.

Arsene Wenger believes the English Premier League title race will go to the wire after seeing his Arsenal side's ambitions boosted by the 1-0 win over Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners had started the day nine points adrift and seemingly no longer genuine contenders following successive defeats to Manchester United and, on Sunday, Chelsea. However, the deficit was narrowed to six points after Abou Diaby's header earned the three points against Liverpool, United drew 1-1 at Aston Villa and leaders Chelsea lost 2-1 at Everton. "I believe we will fight until the last second of the season, and that's what we want to continue to do," said Wenger. "We believe we have a chance and you could see again that Chelsea lost, Manchester United dropped points, so it is open for everybody." Wenger, though, warned more hard work lay ahead and is focusing only on the immediate future. "It can change quickly, but for us it is more important for us to focus on winning our next game than speaking about the title because we had a big shock in our last two games," he added. The victory may have not been a vintage performance by his young side, but it reinforced Wenger's faith following a difficult couple of weeks. The Arsenal manager added: "Nobody realises what it is to play Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool on the trot. Physically and mentally it is very demanding, especially with two massive disappointments. "We have shown good togetherness, good discipline and then we got that little goal which makes a massive result for us." Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez was left fuming, claiming his side should have had a stoppage-time penalty when Arsenal's captain Cesc Fabregas appeared to handle the ball from a Steven Gerrard free-kick. Referee Howard Webb waved away Liverpool's appeals, and television replays appeared to suggest there was doubt whether the hand was in the box. Wenger denied Liverpool should have had a penalty, saying: "It was a controversial situation. "The free-kick against us was harsh. Steven Gerrard didn't deserve the free-kick he got and afterwards Cesc Fabregas maybe touched the ball with his hand, but it shouldn't have been a free-kick." One sour note for Wenger was that Russian midfielder Andrey Arshavin limped off with a hamstring injury and Samir Nasri was substituted with a head injury which left him nauseous. Both will be assessed ahead of the Champions League trip to Porto next week, which will be the Gunners' next match as they are no longer in the FA Cup. Wenger also quashed talk Fabregas was on his way to Barcelona, a story both the player and the Spanish club have denied. "Nothing plus nothing is nothing," said Wenger. Fabregas, meanwhile, once again pledged his allegiance to the Gunners. "They have denied it, I have denied it. I just want to focus on Arsenal," he said.

Chelsea crashed to a 2-1 loss at Everton and saw their lead trimmed to a point by Manchester United, who drew 1-1 with Aston Villa. Louis Saha missed a penalty but still scored twice for Everton after Florent Malouda put Chelsea ahead, with the French striker's goals doing a big favour for former club United, who survived Nani's sending off to earn the point at Villa. United had Nani sent off for a two-footed challenge on home captain Stiliyan Petrov. The Portugal winger, who has recently been in the best form of his Old Trafford career, is now set to receive a three-match ban that will also rule him out of the League Cup final against Villa on February 28. The score was already 1-1 when Nani saw red in the 29th minute. Carlos Cuellar had headed Villa ahead after latching onto Stewart Downing's ball, but United for the 10th time this season benefited from an own goal. Nani's cross was volleyed back across goal by Ryan Giggs and James Collins, with Paul Scholes waiting behind him, could only turn the ball past Brad Friedel, who was making his 215th consecutive league appearance in the Villa goal. Giggs was substituted in the second half after injuring his right arm in a challenge with Steve Sidwell. The extent of the injury will be evaluated after Giggs has had an x-ray. West Ham and Wolverhampton moved out of the relegation zone with victories and are level on 24 points, one above the drop zone. Hull are also on 24 after losing 1-0 at Blackburn. Alessandro Diamanti and Carlton Cole scored the goals as West Ham enjoyed a 2-0 victory over Birmingham, whose former owners David Sullivan and David Gold are now in charge at Upton Park. At Wolves, midfielder David Jones netted his first league goal of the season to clinch a 1-0 victory over sixth-place Tottenham. "It's our worst performance of the season," said the Spurs manager Harry Redknapp. "We had loads of the ball but never threatened enough to score." * PA Sport