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English Premiership

Wenger eyes swift return to top

WILSHERE-MARSEILLELONDON, February 1 – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger wants his side to apply pressure on their Premier League title rivals by reclaiming top spot with victory over Crystal Palace on Sunday.

The Gunners lost their place at the summit of the table to Manchester City following their mid-week 2-2 draw at Southampton.

While Arsenal dropped points at St Mary’s last Tuesday, City were rampant in a 5-1 mauling of Tottenham Hotspur 24 hours later.

But Wenger hopes his men can get back to winning ways immediately at the Emirates Stadium against Tony Pulis’s resurgent outfit.

That will restore a two-point advantage for the Gunners over nearest rivals City, who host third-place Chelsea on Monday.

“That’s our target,” Wenger said. “Can you win the next game if you give absolutely everything? Yes, so let’s do it.

“It is a great opportunity for us to win our game and respond to our draw at Southampton.

“At the moment they (City) are on fire. But I believe we have just to focus on our own run because if you look at the schedule, if we are consistent we have a good chance to do it.

“You cannot speculate on any weakness in Man City in the coming months. So let’s focus on us, and our strengths, in the coming months.

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“It is the way we can do, if we keep the consistency and manage to win the big games — one of them will be Man City at home (on March 29).

“Of course that will be very important. Of course they had an impressive win, and a great quality game as well at Tottenham.

“But if you analyse it well, this game could have turned as well. All the turning points went in their favour. If they had not gone ahead, you are not sure they would have won the game.”

Arsenal have suffered a major injury blow, with Aaron Ramsey ruled out for up to six weeks with a recurrence of a thigh problem.

The Wales midfielder has been one of the stand-out performers for the Gunners this season, scoring 13 goals for the north Londoners in all competitions.

He will miss crunch league fixtures in February against Liverpool and Manchester United, the FA Cup fifth-round clash with Brendan Rodgers’s men, and the mouth-watering Champions League last 16 first-leg tie against Bayern Munich.

“He finished training normally, came in and had pain. We checked in on the scan and is was a recurrence of his muscle problem,” Wenger said.

“Why did it happen? Have we not been cautious enough? We have respected the procedures. Maybe we should have been a bit more cautious, but it was not obvious.”

Wenger reacted to Ramsey’s injury by bringing in Sweden international midfielder Kim Kallstrom from Spartak Moscow on a short-term loan deal.

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Improving Palace have lost only twice in their last six matches under new manager Pulis, who has seen his side climb to 14th place in the table.

The south London club brought a raft of new players to the club before the January transfer window closed on Friday.

Goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, centre-back Scott Dann and midfielders Joe Ledley and Tom Ince all arrived at Selhurst Park, while Jason Puncheon’s loan move from Southampton was turned into a permanent transfer.

“Obviously it was good business done by the football club and we just hope it gels as quick as necessary to get us the points to keep us in the Premiership (Premier League),” Pulis told Sky Sports.

“The important thing was getting competition, and also getting cover. There’s almost a third of the season to go, and we needed that.

“What we’ve got to do now is get them into the groove as quickly as we can.”

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