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Title race not over yet: Wenger

February 29, 2004 15:00 IST

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes the English Premier league title race with Manchester United and Chelsea is far from over despite his team going nine points clear on Saturday.

With 11 games left, some Arsenal fans believe the title is in the bag after watching their side beat Charlton Athletic 2-1 while United drew 1-1 at Fulham, but Wenger is well aware of how quickly things can change.

Asked if he shared the view of the Highbury faithful, the Frenchman told a news conference: "I'm a big fan of Arsenal but I don't believe that (the race is over) because seven games ago we were three points behind United.

"Just seven games -- and we have 11 games to go and we have tricky away games. And after the battle we had today in the second half I would certainly not think the championship is over. Far from it.

"The only good thing is that it's down to how well we play and how well we keep things going."

Wenger will also need no reminding that Arsenal were eight points clear of United in March last season, when a sudden collapse in the closing couple of months saw them surrender a title that many believed had already been won.

Part of the problem then was that Arsenal threw away leads after going in front early on. The spectre of those slips looked to be returning after Charlton pulled a goal back in the second half and hit the woodwork in the dying minutes on Saturday.


Asked if they had learned the lessons of past mistakes, Wenger said: "We have learned a little bit.

"But I still feel we can learn to be even sharper because we had such a domination in the game and we lost the killer instinct.

"We've seen everything in football today -- how pretty it can be and enjoyable to watch, and as well how sometimes you need to dig deep and fight to keep the result."

Though Wenger struck a note of caution, Arsenal have several reasons to be optimistic about their chances of winning the title back from United.

They have not lost a league match all season, they have one foot in the Champions League quarter-finals after winning 3-2 at Celta Vigo last week and have no major absences looming.

Alex Ferguson's side have been hit by suspensions and injuries that kept three first-choice defenders -- Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville and Mikael Silvestre -- out of Saturday's draw at Loftus Road.

United also slipped to third in the table on goal difference on Saturday after being overtaken by Chelsea, who were fortunate 1-0 winners at Manchester City.

Wenger preferred to see the positive turn of events as a potential threat, should his team ease up.

"We are now in a position where everybody will say 'it's done', and your tendency is to lose a little bit of that edge, that sharpness that is needed in every game," he said.

"We are in a good position, but it's far from over."

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