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Wenger confident Gunners can stay the course

Arsene Wenger believes his Arsenal side are showing the mark of champions after returning to the head of the EPL table following the 1-1 draw with Liverpool.
AFP | By Ian Winrow, Liverpool
UPDATED ON OCT 29, 2007 01:39 PM IST

Arsene Wenger believes his Arsenal side are showing the mark of champions after returning to the head of the Premier League table following the 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Anfield.

Arsenal recovered after falling behind to an early Steve Gerrard strike to equalise through Cesc Fabregas with 10 minutes remaining to move ahead of second-placed Manchester United on goals scored with a game in hand on their nearest rivals.

The display demonstrated a level of determination and resolve within Wenger's side that has so far been overlooked during their impressive start to the campaign.

And the manager believes that, with Manchester United due to visit the Emirates Stadium next weekend, the performance against Liverpool will alert others to Arsenal's title credentials.

"I was pleased with the performance and attitude of the team," Wenger said.

"I thought they showed fantastic quality today to come back after going behind in the first few minutes against a team that is so strong on counter-attack and on set-pieces.

"And they have also shown fantastic mental strength and togetherness. I feel we have come out of our first big test looking very strong.

"We played without nerves or any restrictions. We played the game we wanted to play based on our technical qualities and movement. I can't fault the players.

"I have always been confident about our hopes since the beginning of the season. But I hope we have convinced a few more people. In my opinion we have the talent to keep on fighting for the championship."

Arsenal offered flashes of their ability last season but failed to find the consistency needed to sustain a meaningful title challenge. Wenger, though, believes his young side has developed a new-found maturity that means they are a much stronger proposition this time around.

"They are growing as a team and getting more mature," he added. "Last year we were seven points behind the lead after the first three games but are feeling the benefit of a good start this season.

"Now we are going into another big test (against Manchester United) but we will go into it feeling even stronger on the back of today's performance."

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is facing a growing list of injury problems to add to his disappointment at seeing his side fail to hang onto the lead against the league leaders.

Record singing Fernando Torres was withdrawn at half-time after suffering a recurrence of a groin problem that forced him to miss last weekend's Merseyside derby and the midweek Champions League clash with Besiktas.

And Xabi Alonso pulled up with a metatarsal problem on his return after a six week absence with the same problem. To add to Benitez's woes, Javier Mascherano finished the game limping and will have a scan this week on his foot.

"We had problems with Torres and Alonso," the manager said. "Torres is the same injury in his groin area and Alonso had damaged a metatarsal again.

"Maybe Torres's injury isn't as bad but we couldn't use his pace. He wasn't fit and we don't know yet how long he will be out.

"We don't know if Alonso has broken his foot but he felt something and we will have to see what the full extent of the injury is."

Benitez refused to add his name to the growing list of Arsenal admirers insisting Liverpool's own title challenge was still alive and kicking.

"At this moment they are playing well and you can see they are a very good side," he added. "But it's too early, for example we are six points behind but there a lot of games left."

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