ARSENAL boss Arsene Wenger has hailed the never-say-die spirit of his team, but warned them that the true test of their Premier League title credentials is still to come.
The Gunners overtook Chelsea at the top of the table on Wednesday night after rallying from two goals behind to overcome Bolton 4-2.
That victory resembled Arsenal’s season in microcosm; since their title hopes suffered a seemingly fatal blow with a 3-0 home defeat to the Blues they have plundered 23 points from a possible 27.
Such has been the recovery of a team often accused of lacking spirit that even Wenger is surprised.
“I am very proud of what the players have achieved because at the time [of the Chelsea loss] it looked a little bit ludicrous to say we would come back,” he said. “Despite that, the players continued to fight with belief. It is very important we keep a good mixture between humility, and of course ambition and desire to win it.”
Having scaled the division, inspired by captain Cesc Fabregas and albeit having played one game more than Chelsea, Wenger’s challenge is to keep his men at the summit. The Frenchman predicts a two-week spell that starts on Wednesday against Aston Villa and includes clashes with Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool will prove decisive.
“The real difference is made with the teams you fight against [for the title],” he said. “Those games have mathematically a much bigger impact on the table than games like against Bolton.”
All four of those teams also have top four aspirations at the very least, but forward Andrey Arshavin has challenged his team-mates to take all 12 points. “We have to get maximum points from these games,” he said. Defender William Gallas, meanwhile, will not face punishment for his controversial tackle on Mark Davies during the Bolton match. It emerged yesterday that Davies has not been seriously injured. Full-back Kieran Gibbs has been ruled out until next season, while midfielder Abou Diaby and defender Bacary Sagna will both miss Sunday’s FA Cup trip to Stoke.