BOLTON, January 18- Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insisted his side were now genuine title contenders after goals from Cesc Fabregas and Fran Merida helped them beat Bolton 2-0 at the Reebok Stadium.
Sunday’s success left the third-placed Gunners just three points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea and they will go top, on goal difference, if they beat Bolton again at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday in a fixture re-arranged following the recent cold snap in Britain.
After losing 3-0 at home to Chelsea on November 29, Wenger’s men were written off as potential champions but have since gone eight matches unbeaten to transform their season.
However, having seen Fabregas mark his return to the Arsenal side in style to help ruin Owen Coyle’s first match in charge of Bolton, Wenger said: "We are now in a quite interesting position that nobody expected us to be in.
"When the season started we were not all convinced maybe in our squad that we could be where we are today," the Frenchman added.
"But now we are where we are, we want to have a go. We are a big club and when you are a big club, the most difficult thing is like last season in October and November, when you know you don’t fight for the title.
"But now we have a chance to fight for the championship, so let’s have a go."
Fabregas had missed Arsenal’s three previous matches with a hamstring problem but the break did not appear to have done him any harm as he ran the show for the visitors on Sunday, including playing a part in setting-up fellow Spaniard Merida for the Gunners’ second goal 12 minutes from time.
Turning to Fabregas, Wenger said: "What is very interesting for us is Cesc gets stronger and stronger and has more personality on the pitch, like the whole team.
"He grows. He will be 23 this year – he is just starting."
Coyle almost had the dream start as Bolton boss when after just 45 seconds Kevin Davies dribbled into the box but he could not control the ball when unmarked and the chance went begging.
Arsenal showed Bolton how it should be done in the 28th minute.
After some impressive build-up play, Abou Diaby was tackled by Gretar Steinsson on the edge of the box but the Icelandic defender tripped and gifted the ball to Fabregas and after a collecting a wonderful return pass from Eduardo, the Spain midfielder calmly slotted into the bottom corner .
Bolton were a much improved team after half-time with South Korea’s Lee Chung-Yong causing Arsenal problems down the right wing while Matt Taylor missed several good chances to level the match at 1-1.
"I thought the level of performance was terrific and on another day would have got us points, whether one or three," Coyle said.
"If we play at that level we will pick up points in this league and we can make a game of it on Wednesday."