Wenger: United and Arsenal no longer dominate, but Gunners are still major force
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insists his team remain title contenders despite their alarming slip out of the Champions League places after winning just one of their last four in the Barclays Premier League.
The Gunners face Manchester United at the weekend, two clubs who have often battled for domestic dominance in recent years, but now find the likes of Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea also in the hunt for the crown.
However, looking ahead to Sunday's clash between the Gunners and United at the Emirates Stadium, Wenger told Arsenal Player: 'It's still the same.
Top of the pile: Wenger insists Arsenal remain one of the league's top teams
'It is not the only game any more because you have Chelsea and Man City coming in, with Liverpool still there. But it is a game that is watched all over the world.
'We do (lift ourselves), we think we are on a similar level. I still think that when we have everybody available we are a strong force in this league. That's why it is important that we fight very hard not to drop points.'
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has tended to pack his midfield for games at the Emirates, but Wenger believes his team have what it takes to win at the weekend.
'They sometimes have a very compact midfield to kill our passing game and get us on the counter-attack. They do that very well,' he said.
'I believe that sometimes it works for them, although last year we beat them 1-0 in a convincing way. It depends on how well we play on the day, how well we pass the ball through their lines, no matter how many are in there.'
Wenger will hope to have defender Thomas Vermaelen back on Sunday, but Thierry Henry could struggle to renew his rivalry with the Red Devils.
Out for revenge Arsenal face United for the first time since their 8-2 drubbing
Centre-back Vermaelen has not played since he limped out of the 1-0 victory against QPR on New Year's Eve, while Henry has been hampered by a calf problem following the disappointing 3-2 defeat at Swansea and has only just returned to full training.
Midfielder Mikel Arteta could also still be sidelined this weekend having missed the trip to Wales with a calf strain.
Wenger is short of defensive cover, but as yet has not moved in the loan market, with left-back still a priority as Bacary Sagna, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson and Andre Santos are all out.
A depleted Arsenal were thrashed 8-2 at Old Trafford earlier this season and defender Johan Djourou has his sights set on revenge.
'We have the away game still in our minds so there is revenge to take. We have to keep working hard to try to improve,' Djourou said.