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Wenger defiant over Arsenal title hopes

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on the sidelines during his side's Premier League match against Norwich City at Carrow Road on November 29, 2015. PHOTO/AFP

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on the sidelines during his side’s Premier League match against Norwich City at Carrow Road on November 29, 2015. PHOTO/AFP

LONDON, March 7 – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on Monday insisted that his side are still in the Premier League title race and that their trophy hopes do not only lie with the FA Cup.

The Gunners are eight points behind league leaders Leicester despite a battling 2-2 draw at rivals Tottenham, and have won just three of their last 12 games.

Wenger’s men next take on Championship side Hull in an FA Cup fifth round replay on Tuesday, after the holders were held to a goalless draw in the initial match at the Emirates.

They also look set to exit the Champions League thanks to a last 16, 2-0 first leg home defeat to Barcelona.

The record 12-time winners though will be seeking solace from the FA Cup once more, as they look to become the first side since Blackburn in the 19th century to win it three times in a row.

Wenger though is adamant that the league title race is far from over, having inflicted two of only three defeats on Leicester this season.

“You don’t think like that,” he said when asked whether the FA Cup is Arsenal’s most realistic chance of silverware.

“The Premier League is far from being over. Just to remind you, we have beaten Leicester twice so we have done our job against them.

“People have to look at other teams more, not just us on that front. We will not give up the Premier League, we will fight until the end.”

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The FA Cup has been a long-term friend to the French coach, he has won it six times since arriving at Highbury in 1996.

The 66-year-old is also now the longest-serving coach in European football, after Ronnie McFall ended his 29-year stint in charge of Northern Irish club Portadown over the weekend.

Despite facing criticism from several pundits, including his ex-players Paul Merson and Thierry Henry, Wenger says he is used to passing over negative comments.

“I have always the same pressure which is the same pressure I apply to myself,” he said.

“It is the same. After that, people talk and you have more people talking than 20 years ago and more opinions. That doesn’t change the pressure. The real pressure comes from your desire to win the next game and that is the only one that matters really.

“I believe that opinions are opinions. I do my job and one day someone will replace me and will replace you. That is part of life and as long as you have done well, given your best and that is the quality of work people do.”

The winners of the fifth-round tie will not have long to wait for the quarter-finals, with the prize on offer at the KC Stadium a home match with Watford on Sunday, so Wenger is likely to make some changes.

“I will have to (make changes) but I’m not so much concerned about replacing one player with another one. It’s more that I have to rotate a little bit and keep the right balance in the team,” he said.

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