ARSENE WENGER maintains his latest generation of Arsenal youngsters have all the ingredients to emulate his team of “Invincibles”.
The Gunners moved into the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup with a 4-0 victory at Newcastle on Wednesday night.
And Chelsea’s lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League was cut back down to five points following a 3-0 win at 10-man Manchester City last Sunday, which continued the momentum from the 5-1 trashing of Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League.
Wenger has not tasted success in the domestic championship since the likes of Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira swept all before them in the unbeaten campaign of 2003/2004, while their last trophy was the 2005 FA Cup.
But the Gunners boss insists all that is about to change.
“There is a lot more to come out of this team,” said Wenger, whose side host bottom club West Ham today.
“I feel the ingredients of teams which I had before who were successful are in there. It is just how much we can get them out and of course we need to keep all of our players fit.
“As long as the attitude is right and at the end of the season when you look back you think ‘This team has given absolutely everything they could’, you will be proud of them.”
Young goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny impressed in the win at Newcastle and Wenger confirmed a new deal had been offered to the 20-year-old.
“He wants to stay, I want him to stay,” Wenger said. “I want to play him, but our job is about competition. He has the qualities to fight for the position, and that is what I wish. He is a very talented young goalkeeper. He wants to be successful here and I want him to be successful here, so normally it should work.”
With 12 goals in their last three matches, and key men like Theo Walcott back in contention, Arsenal will be expected to make short work of the Hammers, who also booked their place in the last eight of the Carling Cup.
However, Wenger maintains there can be no complacency, especially after the shock home defeat to West Brom before the last international break.
“I think we got the lesson,” Wenger said. “In fairness to my team, that is the only game since the start of the season where we did not perform well, but as well it shows that just once when you are not completely there and you are caught.”
West Ham remain entrenched in the relegation zone, but their home defeat to Newcastle last weekend was a first in six games.
“I see them getting out of the drop zone because they have quality players, but it is difficult,” Wenger said. “If you lose one or two games you will quickly be down there, it is so easy.”
For his part, West Ham boss Avram Grant, who some reports suggest has just two matches to save his job, said his side would try to build on the confidence gleaned from an extra-time Carling Cup win against Stoke in midweek and pleaded to be given time.
He maintained he was under no pressure from owners David Gold and David Sullivan and would continue trying to bring through the young talent at Upton Park.
Grant said: “I am focused on my job and even in this position we are doing the right things. It is not a good situation but it is only nine games. To judge players and the team we need to wait a bit. The owners always say they believe in this vision and I believe in it. There is no other way for West Ham. More than 50% of the team in midweek was under 24. We are doing the right things.”
At the other side of the table, Wenger feels up to seven teams could be in contention for the title, including, surprisingly, Liverpool.
“The consistency will be rewarded in the end and everybody can drop points against everybody,” Wenger said.
“It looks unlikely that Liverpool will win it, but you can’t rule them completely out because the gap is not massive and they have a quality squad.”
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