Wenger, Terry count their blessings

Reuters

Thu, 23 Dec 13:23:00 2010

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was relieved on Thursday that a wobbly home record had not been more costly and Chelsea captain John Terry was glad his team were still in the Premier League title race despite a lack of depth.

The season has so far been very forgiving as just three points separate the top four, with unbeaten Manchester United on 34 points, two ahead of Arsenal and Manchester City, and Chelsea in fourth on 31.

A busy festive schedule could shake things up and Chelsea travel to Arsenal on Monday.

"The good news is that we are in a good position and we have not paid a high price for that (three home defeats and five in total) but of course our home form in the second part of the season will be the decider," Wenger told a news conference.

He gets the chance to put that drive for improved form at the Emirates into practice against Chelsea, another team counting their blessings after escaping stiffer punishment for poor results.

The champions, whose season started promisingly with 21 goals in five consecutive victories, have imploded with no wins in their last five league games and have found their squad under pressure with injuries to the likes of midfielders Frank Lampard and Michael Essien and Terry.

"In the past we had a big squad and could rotate and put other players in, we don't have that now, we have quite a young squad and it's a time for everyone to stay together like we always will," Terry said on the club website (www.chelseafc.com).

"Once we've turned that corner we can move on from there and wait for other teams to slip up which they will do.

"We've missed some key players at key times and it is a case of keeping everyone fit now over the Christmas period where we have two games in three days."

HECTIC LIST

A hectic Christmas and New Year fixtures list gives some clubs four games in little over a week, meaning there could finally be some daylight between the top sides soon -- something that was not lost on United manager Alex Ferguson.

"If we are still top of the league by Jan. 4 then we will have done well," he told a news conference.

"By that time the top of the league will have taken shape. Depending on the weather of course, we could have a lot of postponements yet."

Heavy snow and freezing temperatures have led to two of United's league matches being postponed this month. While they would have preferred to play them, last Sunday's postponement of their match at Chelsea was good timing as several United players were suffering with flu.

Ferguson was optimistic Nemanja Vidic, Nani, Anderson and Michael Carrick, who were laid low with the bug, will have recovered in time for Sunday's match at home to Sunderland.

Winger Nani may have been ill but he found time to irk Arsenal by ruling out the Londoners as title contenders.

"I no longer see anybody winning the Premier League this season outside of Manchester United or Chelsea. Hopefully, it will be United," local media quoted him as saying on Thursday.

Wenger poured cold water on the Portugal player's view.

"I personally don't know who will win the league and I've managed 1,600 games," he said. "So if Nani knows, he must be 1,600 times more intelligent than I am."

 

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