Arsenal forward Theo Walcott says that his side’s improved defensive performances have strengthened conviction with-in the club that Arsene Wenger’s men can clinch the Premier League title this season.
The Gunners saw out 2013 at the head of the table following victory at Newcastle United and will attempt to start the New Year in similar fashion when Cardiff City visit the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
Walcott believes the key to their progress lies at the back, where Arsenal have conceded only 18 goals in 19 league games.
“We’ve got great character in that dressing room and we’re getting stronger every week,” he said. “Everyone trusts each other, which is important. Going into the New Year, we’re very excited.
“Every game that we win, gives us more belief that we’re going to win the league. But we won’t get ahead of ourselves; we know how crucial every game is.”
City form gives Pellegrini Christmas joy
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini believes that his side’s profitable December has set them up to regain the Premier League title in 2014.
City won six of their seven league games in December; they only dropped points in a draw at Southampton.
Pellegrini’s team are now just a point off leaders Arsenal heading into their first game of 2014 at Swansea City.
City were eighth in the table at one point in November and looking in danger of being cut adrift by their title rivals, only to recover the deficit.
“I think it was a fantastic month for us,” said Pellegrini. “To recover six points in a month is not easy.
“I think the first six months of the year [season] was very good for us. Now in the second half we try to continue winning.”
United, Spurs eye top four as 2014 dawns
Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur will be looking to poke sticks in each other’s wheel spokes when they face off in the stand-out New Year’s Day fixture.
Both sides have endured trying periods this season, United losing five of their first 15 games and Tottenham sacking manager Andre Villas-Boas, but both have enjoyed improved fortunes in recent weeks.
United have won their last six games in all competitions, while Tottenham are unbeaten in the league under new head coach Tim Sherwood, who has introduced an adventurous 4-4-2 formation.
The two teams remain eight points behind leaders Arsenal, with United ahead of Spurs on goal difference, but results over the festive period enabled them to close to within just three points of the top four.
Meanwhile, Chelsea captain John Terry warned that Southampton still pose a considerable threat when his side meets them on Wednesday.
“It’s going to be tough because they’re very good at home,” he said. “They are a good side, who try and play out from the back, so we’re expecting a tough game.”