Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insists Barclays Premier League rivals Manchester City are far from unbeatable and should not be regarded as odds-on favourites for the title heading into 2014.
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has been quick to play up City’s expectations, claiming “they know how good they are” in what could be perceived as mind games ahead of what is expected to be one of the most fiercely contested run-ins over the next five months.
Despite bookmakers all having Manuel Pellegrini’s men at the head of their title betting, Wenger believes the battle for supremacy over the final 19 matches will be much closer.
“Do you believe him (Mourinho) that City are favourites? Not more than Chelsea, for me, or Man United,” said Wenger, whose side were thumped 6-3 at the Etihad Stadium on December 14.
“They have the squad, yes, they have a squad of names who can pretend to win it, but at the end of the day, it is down to what we do on the pitch.
“Are they, at the moment, completely unbeatable? Not for me.
“They have lost a number of games as well away from home. Man City have played one more game at home, than away. We have played one more game away, than at home, so it is open.”
Despite all of their detractors, Arsenal head into 2014 top of the table, albeit with a slender one-point lead.
Wenger joked: “We have a bit less pressure because everyone expects us to fail.”
The Arsenal manager, however, is deadly serious when it comes to his own expectation levels for the team next year.
“Consistency is not coincidence,” Wenger said.
“We had a little blip, I don’t deny that. After (losing 2-0 away in the Champions League in) Naples, we lost six against Man City, that is where everybody questioned us. After that it was important at least not to lose against Chelsea, so we were recovered from that.
“These players have a classy attitude, they are hungry, they want it and are ready to go for it.”
Arsenal have always come strong over the second half of the campaign, just as they did last season to eventually overhaul Tottenham to secure a top-four finish.
It has been six years since they last mounted a sustained assault on the championship.