Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Gunners Prefer to Hunt Than Be Hunted

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Gunners Prefer to Hunt Than Be Hunted

Article excerpt


THE GOSPEL according to Arsene Wenger has no room for doubts. But if a little anxiety gnaws at Highbury's current confidence it is caused by the knowledge that Arsenal are invariably at their best when the odds are stacked against them.

This season, of course, the opposite applies. The odds favour Wenger's men as they bid to become the first club to win the fabled domestic Double four times.

They lead the Premiership title race and remain unbeaten after 26 games.

When they meet Charlton at Highbury tomorrow, they will be defending a seven-point lead. Some loyalists consider such a comfort zone to be, well, ominous!

The common denominator in Arsenal's three previous Double triumphs has been their refusal to accept second place. On each occasion - in 1971, 1998 and 2002 - they won the Championship in spectacular fashion, overhauling the opposition in the last 12 games of the season.

If Wenger has any private worry, it is probably caused by his team's aura of invincibility.

A seven-point lead with 12 games left should be unassailable. But it isn't.

Last season Arsenal went to the top of the Premiership in mid-September, had an eight-point lead at the beginning of March, but finished in second place, five points behind Manchester United.

"We're aware of all the implications and it's up to us to ensure the pressure doesn't affect us," said Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira. "I don't want to say that this team is better than previous Arsenal teams because it isn't important. What matters is how we face up to the challenge ahead.

What I will say is that this team has learned the lessons and now has the experience to cope."

Wenger has told his players they no longer need to worry about title rivals United and Chelsea. "The positive part of our situation is that we need to concentrate only on our own performances," he said. …

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