Confident Wenger predicts close title race

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger remains confident his team will win back the Premier League title in what could be the closest race for years.

Updated: January 07, 2010 14:06 IST
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London :

Even though his title bid has been stalled by snow and Arsenal has a tough schedule on the horizon, Arsene Wenger remains confident his team will win back the Premier League title in what could be the closest race for years.

A heavy snowfall prevented Arsenal from possibly moving past second-place Manchester United and within a point of leader Chelsea on Wednesday when its game against Bolton was called off.

Facing another home game against Everton on Saturday, Wenger predicts that none of the traditional contenders will build up a big lead in the second half of the season and that as little as 82 points could be enough to capture the title. In the last six seasons, the winner has finished with between 87 and 95.

"I said a few months ago that 78 to 83 points would win the title and I stick by that," Wenger said.

"If you multiply the current (points totals) by two then you will not be far from that. Chelsea have played 20 games and have 45 points, we have played 19 games and have 41 points. If you multiply that by two it's 82 points. The champions will be around there with 82, 83, 84 (points)."

Wenger's theory is backed up by the surprisingly high number of games the leading contenders have lost so far.

At just after the halfway stage of the league campaign, the current top four _ Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham _ have lost a combined 17 games. That equals the total of games that the eventual top four _ Man United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal _ lost in the whole of last season.

"Don't forget we all have to play each other again. Nobody will run away with it and get 19 wins," said Wenger, whose team has a scary run of consecutive league games near the end of the month _ Aston Villa away, Manchester United at home, Chelsea away and Liverpool at home.

"At the moment there are six or seven teams who could play in the top four and they will all play each other. That means everybody will drop points."

Having won 6-1 at Everton on the opening day of the season, Wenger should be confident of collecting another three points at home on Saturday _ weather permitting.

The heaviest snowfalls for three decades forced the postponement of the two League Cup semifinals _ Blackburn-Aston Villa and Man City-Man United _ as well as the Arsenal-Bolton Premier League game. More snow and freezing conditions threaten this weekend's schedule.

Although most of the playing surfaces are playable because of undersoil heating, the problems are outside the grounds with roads dangerous or even inaccessible because they are covered by snow and ice.

Arsenal was close to letting the Bolton game go ahead and, with the snow relenting on Thursday, is confident about the Everton game.

Leader Chelsea goes to Hull, which is also confident the game will go ahead unless there is another major snowfall. Second-place United, which is two points behind, visits Birmingham, which is not reporting any major problems.

Fourth-place Tottenham visits seventh-place Liverpool on Sunday and, although the northwest was badly hit by the snow, groundstaff are hoping that an extra day's work on the areas surrounding Anfield will help them make sure the game is on.

Likewise, Manchester City has until Monday to Saturday to clear the snow and ice away from Eastlands so that its match against Blackburn will go ahead.

Saturday's other games are Burnley-Stoke, Fulham-Portsmouth, Sunderland-Bolton and Wigan- Aston Villa. West Ham welcomes Wolves on Sunday.

In the race for promotion from the League Championship, second-place West Bromwich hosts third-place Nottingham Forest on Friday, with both clubs hoping to move closer to leader Newcastle, which visits Reading on Saturday and has a six-point lead.

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