Wenger: Pressure on Gunners is different now

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger thinks the pressure on his team is very different now they are leading the Barclays Premier League title race.

Arsene Wenger

The Gunners host Fulham on Saturday aiming to stay one step ahead of championship rivals Manchester City who take on Cardiff and Chelsea, who will host Manchester United on Sunday afternoon.

It is a goal in stark contrast to this time last year when Wenger's men were down in sixth place, some 21 points off the pace before eventually embarking on an 11-match unbeaten run to snatch fourth from Tottenham on the final day.

Wenger said: "When you are fifth or sixth and you have to convince everybody you will make it to be in the top four, that you have to push and not make any mistake because you know that from now until the end of the season with 10 games to go you cannot drop one point.

"It is like bringing a boat into a port with no room for going an inch right or left or the whole boat explodes.

"When you are in our position today, it is natural motivation, natural incitement to go. It is easier psychologically."

Wenger feels Arsenal's consistency since the club-record signing of Mesut Ozil on deadline day in the summer transfer window has helped restore faith his team can finally deliver in 2014.

"We have gone from a club who looked like they had not the ambition to be capable to fight," he said.

"What has changed, with bringing players like Ozil in and not losing our own players, is that suddenly people believe again and that we can fight."

Wenger's current deal expires in the summer and talks have been going on for some time to tie up his long-term future.

The 64-year-old was again pressed on the contract negotiations during Friday's press conference, and indicated he may well have already made up his mind - if not yet ready to announce it publicly.

The Frenchman, in charge since September 1996, maintains his future has always been linked with whether he feels the team can move forwards again.

"What I basically said is 'can I deliver the quality?' because people were questioning that," he added.

"I said: 'okay, I can listen to that and I want to make sure I can deliver.' My commitment has never been a problem.

"I am convinced I can. I was always convinced I can, but it has to be shown concretely by numbers (in the table) - are you good or not good?"

Arsenal are expected to bring in some attacking reinforcements this month to try to help offset the loss of England forward Theo Walcott to a serious knee injury.

While Wenger played down suggestions of a deal for Schalke's German international Julian Draxler - said to have a £37million buy-out clause - Arsenal do have funds if needed.

"We are not in a situation where we are bankrupt now. We are still strong, but we have to plan our resources," he said.

"The (transfer) policy will be exactly the same, but the resources available will be higher and bigger because we have gone through a period where we had to pay our stadium back. Today that weight is smaller in our budget because the rest of the income has become much bigger.

"Of course, that is very exciting to be capable to fight and keep your players."

Jack Wilshere was impressive at the heart of the midfield in Arsenal's win at Villa Park.

Wenger revealed the fitness of the England international, who has been troubled by ankle problems, would continue to be carefully managed.

"I still have to be cautious, for the rest of the season we need to listen well to how he feels. We are monitoring him daily," he said.

"Jack has gone through the most sensitive period, but to think that he is completely over it, and that we do not have to consider how he feels, would be a mistake.

"At his age you want to come out every day and want the ball to play, so, at the moment, he is good."

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