Wenger the Mindbender; Arsenal Boss Cranks Up the Pressure on His Title Rivals
Byline: JOHN RICHARDSON
ARSENE WENGER resorted to psychological warfare again yesterday as he reacted to a setback for his Arsenal side in the race for the Premiership.
Wenger, who admitted that the 1-1 draw at Newcastle was two points dropped, cranked up the pressure on Manchester United and Chelsea but suggested Alex Ferguson's team could be distracted by their obsession with European glory.
'I would give a slight advantage to Chelsea,' said Wenger, 'not because of a difference in quality of teams, but Manchester United are much more involved in the European Cup, while Chelsea play in the Cup-winners' Cup with less demands.
'The Champions Cup is something special in everybody's mind - and I would say even more so in United's mind - so I think they might lose more energy.'
Wenger believes that 75 points will be enough to win the title and he insisted: 'We are capable of reaching that target.' But his stance provides a fascinating subplot as he tries to outsmart United manager Alex Ferguson and Chelsea boss Gianluca Vialli.
Earlier this season, Wenger wrote off his team's title chances after a disappointing run, but it inspired his players to roar back into contention.
He performed a similar trick last seaon and his players responded by surging to the League and FA Cup Double. Yesterday's draw was a blow because the Gunners led through a first-half Nicolas Anelka, goal only for Newcastle's German midfielder Dietmar Hamann to grab a stunning equaliser with just 13 minutes left.
The result leaves Arsenal three points adrift of second-placed Chelsea, with United, who have played a game more, a further four points clear.
Wenger was critical of the St James' Park surface which helped bog down his champions, saying: 'It's a terrible pitch. …