Wenger: Gunners up for the fight
Arsene Wenger has warned Tottenham that his Arsenal team are ready to fight all the way for Champions League qualification this season.
Arsenal remain four points behind their fourth-placed neighbours after grinding out a 1-0 victory over Sunderland with 10 men following the sending off of Carl Jenkinson. Spurs stretched their unbeaten run to 10 matches at the weekend with victory over Newcastle, but Wenger knows better than most that everything can change quickly in the final third of the season.
"There are many games to go," Wenger told Arsenal Player when asked about his team's attempts to catch Spurs. "We are in the fight and the game on Saturday showed that we are ready for a fight."
After all, this time last year Tottenham held a 10-point advantage over the Gunners, but a poor run of form towards the end of the season - which began with defeat in the north London derby - saw Spurs slip off the pace and ended with Arsenal qualifying for the Champions League for a 15th successive season.
And with 13 matches left this season - including a visit to White Hart Lane on March 3 - Wenger knows Arsenal can still leapfrog their rivals if they display the fight they did at the Stadium of Light.
Although Arsenal are no longer blessed with the attacking prowess of Robin van Persie, Wenger claims they do possess a strong mentality which he thinks was evident on Saturday when they had to spend most of the second half down to 10 men following Jenkinson's dismissal for a second yellow card.
"Our character was questioned many times," the Arsenal manager added. "You saw (on Saturday) that we have plenty. I liked the last 20 minutes when we were pushed back. We headed every single ball. We tried like mad and that's fantastic to see.
"Sometimes you have to just dig in and some players played in uncomfortable positions. When we have the desire to win, it helps a lot."
One area of concern for Wenger was that two of his key players, Laurent Koscielny and Jack Wilshere, suffered respective calf and thigh injuries on Saturday.
The Frenchman is hopeful that both players will be fit for Saturday's FA Cup clash against Blackburn, although they may be rested given that the Gunners play Bayern Munich in the Champions League three days later.