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12 Feb 2008 08:57
Arsene Wenger has warned Manchester United that Arsenal won’t be affected by the pressure of leading from the front in the Premier League title race.
Wenger’s side extended their advantage over United to five points with a 2-0 win over Blackburn on Monday and the French coach took encouragement from the way they once again handled a tricky situation with extreme confidence.
United’s defeat in the Manchester derby on Sunday had left Arsenal with the tantalising prospect of opening up their first substantial gap at the top. But the pressure that comes with such an opportunity, plus the obstacle of a resolute Rovers, could have proved too much for the young Gunners.
Instead they rose to the occasion with goals from Philippe Senderos and Emmanuel Adebayor taking their unbeaten league run to 10 matches.
“I feel we handled the pressure very well each time this year when we’ve had our backs to the wall,” Wenger said.
“Last week we played first at Manchester City and we won.
This week we played last and we won as well.
“We always had the belief from the first day, but there’s still a long way to go. As soon as you’re not at your best at the top, you can drop points. We have seen that over the weekend.
“We have still 12 games to go. We are in a good position. We believe we can do it. But we’re not fools as well. It’s far from being over.
“We’ll have to fight until the last minute of the championship. We still have hard games ahead of us.
“I don’t want my team to focus on the difference between us and the rest. I want us to focus on strengthening our lead and asserting our authority.”
Senderos opened the scoring in the fourth minute when he escaped Benni McCarthy’s slack marking to meet Eduardo’s corner with a powerful header that gave Brad Friedel no chance.
Friedel produced excellent stops to deny Mathieu Flamini, Adebayor and Alexander Hleb. But Adebayor put the result beyond doubt in stoppage time with a fine finish.
As long as Adebayor remains in such prolific form, Arsenal will believe they can end their four-year wait for the title. The Togo striker has scored 12 times in nine games to draw level with Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo on 19 league goals this season.
Ever the purist, Wenger insisted he admires the contribution of the players who create Adebayor’s goals as much as the finisher’s efforts.
“He can score goals, but I believe that all the strikers benefit from our outstanding teamwork,” Wenger said.
“It’s not a coincidence that strikers who play here score goals because everybody goes forward, everybody gives you good balls. The team feeds you when we go forward. They have given us a lot of good food.”
While Blackburn boss Mark Hughes claimed the score was harsh on his side, in truth they were never dangerous enough to warrant extending their seven-match unbeaten run.
Hughes knows what it takes to win the title after his success as a player with Manchester United and he believes Arsenal are made of the right stuff.
“Arsenal needed the three points and they’ve taken advantage of the results over the weekend,” Hughes said. “They’re in pole position. If they keep on winning, they’ll win the title.”—Sapa-AFP
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