Wenger: We're in BPL title race to win it

Arsene Wenger is not about to play down Arsenal's chances of winning the BPL and will take "full responsibility" if they fail this season.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Both Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini have been keen to stress why their clubs should be considered as favourites for what has become the most open of championship battles.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, meanwhile, claimed his side were "Chihuahua that runs in between the horses' legs" following a dramatic midweek win at Fulham, which cut the gap on the leaders down to four points.

That comment brought a response from Mourinho, who in turn insisted the Reds were in a "privileged position" because of not playing in Europe, unlike their three rivals.

However, Wenger - who is the longest-serving manager in the Premier League following Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement - does not intend to speak anything but positively about his team's chances of success as they prepare for Sunday's FA Cup fifth-round tie against Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium.

"If you're not in the race you cannot lose it, if you declare yourself not in the race you cannot lose it, simple as that," said Wenger, whose side are a point behind Chelsea in second place, albeit having played a match more than City.

"I think just that our job is to be ambitious and to try to win, if we do not win to take full responsibility for that. That's as simple as that and that's how I see it.

"I say yes we are in it, yes we will have a go for it, we will absolutely give everything to go for it and if we don't do I will take responsibility for it, but I just see it like that."

Having had to listen to pundits claim all season his side do not have what it takes to last the distance, Wenger is not about to be concerned with any reverse psychology tactics from Mourinho, who previously stated Chelsea were the "little horse" in the title race.

"We live in a league and in a country where we have one advantage - everybody can think what he wants, (but) it is very difficult when you're first in the league to distract people," Wenger said.

"It is very open, only Chelsea can lose it because they are in front and all the other teams can win it."

Asked why every other manager says they are not contenders, Wenger responded: "It is (because of a) fear to fail."

Wenger rejects any suggestion Liverpool prefer to have so much rest between fixtures instead of having to prepare to take on the likes of Bayern Munich or Barcelona.

"If you win and you have no big injuries, it's better you play competitions," said Wenger.

"On a physical front, (yes) it is a huge advantage for Liverpool, but if you give them the choice - would you like to play in the Champions League? They have not played in the Champions League for several years, so they would say yes, don't worry."

Arsenal were thumped 5-1 at Anfield in the Premier League last weekend - trailing 4-0 inside the opening 20 minutes - but responded with a goalless draw against Manchester United on Wednesday night.

Midfielder Santi Cazorla is doubtful this weekend because of illness, but Mathieu Flamini returns from a three-game suspension.

Wenger is expecting a much-improved display when they tackle Liverpool again, looking for a repeat of Arsenal's 2-0 home league win in November.

"These guys are winners. When they lose in that way believe me they are hurt," said the Arsenal manager.

"When you can put things right, you want an opportunity to do that and we have an opportunity."

Right-back Bacary Sagna, 31, is out of contract in the summer, and there have been reports the France international was close to agreeing a three-year extension worth some £100,000-a-week amid interest from the likes of Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City.

"It is an ongoing process," said Wenger. "(But) no, he is not close [to signing]."

There were some boos from the home supporters at the final whistle against United on Wednesday night, and while Wenger can appreciate the disappointment he called for their continued faith.

"I think the crowd is behind the team, but they were frustrated which is understandable. We were as well," Wenger said.

"I cannot say I think the crowd will be behind the team (again), but if they were not behind the team that would be a surprise.

"We are one point off the leader (of the Premier League), we play in the Champions League, we play in the FA Cup, so if on top of that we have not a crowd behind us, that would be absolutely unbelievable."

Wenger added: "We are professional football players. That means we have to cope with every single thing of the crowd, because that is the job.

"After that if you (fans) can help behind the team, that makes us even stronger."

Wenger is likely to look to rest some players ahead of the Bayern tie, so Lukas Podolski could be given another chance to lead the attack in place of Olivier Giroud.

"He is an exciting player who always gives you a hope that he can score a goal, and at the moment we miss that a bit," said the Gunners boss.

"He was basically out for a whole season (with a hamsting injury) and is a structure who needs to work hard, but he is getting better now."



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