ARSENE Wenger claims that his Arsenal side will gain an important psychological advantage in the Premier League title race if they go top this evening.
Victory by two goals or more over Bolton Wanderers at the Emirates Stadium will take Arsenal above Chelsea on goal difference -- albeit having played a game more -- and, says Wenger, give his players a huge boost.
It is so tight at the top that Manchester United can regain the lead by beating Hull City on Saturday, when Arsenal and Chelsea are involved in the FA Cup. But Wenger is convinced that looking down on their rivals even for a brief period would be of immense benefit to Arsenal, not least because their title chances have been widely dismissed for much of the season.
"At the moment there is not too much mathematical meaning, but it would have a psychological meaning," Wenger said. "Everybody wrote us off and we are back in it, which is a big step we have definitely made. It's a nice target to have, but let's first of all focus on winning the game."
Wenger believes that Arsenal's feat in making up eight points on Chelsea since a 3-0 defeat by the leaders at the end of November has restored his side's credibility, but he is more concerned by ending a five-year wait for a trophy. Arsenal bring back Denilson in the midfield holding role tonight, while Gael Clichy could make his first start since October at left back.
"It would be a great achievement to go top, but I am not stupid," Wenger said. "We have won nothing yet, but we have won some credibility. That is not enough, however. We want more, and at least we are in a position to fight for it and have a go.
"That's what we want to do, but we know as well that there is a long way to go. I have the confidence that my team will give absolutely everything. I trust their hunger, I trust their appetite and I trust their spirit, knowing of course that there is a long way to go."
Wenger also believes the return of Theo Walcott could feel like a new signing. The Arsenal manager says that having Walcott -- back from a rib problem and who has made only 10 appearances available again, along with the imminent rehabilitation of striker Nicklas Bendtner from groin surgery -- can make a real impact as his squad gear up for a crucial few weeks which will see them face Aston Villa, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool.
"We are not close to signing anybody at the moment and we are so focused on the game that we forget a little bit to speak about transfers," said Wenger.
"We have so many players out that our talks are more focused on 'when is he back, when he is back' and it looks like any player we can get back is like a transfer because we have not seen some players this season -- like Walcott, like Bendtner.
"They can be fresh for the second part of the season and they can give us a big push.
"I am not stupid. We have won nothing yet. Yes, we have won some credibility. However, that is not enough. We want more, at least we are in a position to fight for it and have a go.
"That is what we want to do, but we know as well that there is a long way to go."
Wenger added: "It gives a lot of credit to the players that despite all which has happened, we are still there.
"That is the only step we have definitely made -- everybody wrote us off and we are back in it."
Wenger admits it is strange to -- by a quirk of the fixture schedule -- play the same opponents again so quickly.
"To surprise them is difficult because everybody knows you cannot change too much the way we play football," he said. "Our fans will be certainly behind us and that makes us at home in an even stronger position."