BURNLEY: Arsene Wenger has cause to regret Arsenal's indifferent start to the season after his side belatedly hauled themselves into the Premier League title race.
Last weekend's emphatic 4-1 defeat of Liverpool moved the Gunners up to second and victory at second-bottom Burnley on Saturday will close the gap on leaders Chelsea to four points, the day before Jose Mourinho's side travel across London to face Queens Park Rangers.
The distance between the top two, together with Chelsea having a game in hand, means it would take an extraordinary turnaround for Arsenal to overhaul their capital rivals.
But there is no doubt Wenger's side have built impressive momentum since the New Year's Day loss at Southampton, winning 15 of 17 games in all competitions.
That has allowed them to overhaul Manchester United and Manchester City and all but guarantee their place in next season's Champions League but veteran Arsenal manager Wenger admitted their season was shaped by a disjointed opening half of the campaign.
"We had a difficult start this season compared to last year. This season we had many players out for four or five months after the World Cup and since we have found our cohesion with everybody back, we feel we have moved forward," he said.
"I just think we are at a stage of the season where we took off in January, because we had nearly everybody available. That made us more efficient," the Frenchman added.
"We have maybe a better team balance between attacking and defending as well than we had until January.
"We are in good form and it's interesting that we have a good team dynamic. Hopefully we can maintain that until the end of the season, then we will see where we stand."
FA Cup holders Arsenal are set for an exciting end to the season as they are also in the last four of the knockout competition.
"We look behind us and people are chasing us, in front of us there's quite a big distance with Chelsea but we work very hard to reduce that," said Wenger.
"What we want is to go as high as we can until the end of the season, give our best and we are also in the semi-finals of the FA Cup."
Meanwhile Burnley boss Sean Dyche said Wenger was a source of inspiration for younger managers.
Dyche, 43, is in his first season in charge of a Premier League club whereas Wenger is overseeing his 19th campaign at Arsenal.
Some Arsenal supporters have called for Wenger to be replaced after a return of just one trophy in 10 years but Dyche said Gunners' fans should be grateful for what they have.
"They're a fine side, who keep progressing despite what people say," Dyche said. "Arsene seems to get questioned, I don't know why, I think the job he's done is terrific.
"Of course, I'm aware fans would like to have won more trophies in recent years but, as a young manager aspiring to progress in the game, I look at people like him thinking 'you haven't done badly if you have a career like his'."
Burnley are 19th in the Premier League but are just two points behind fourth-bottom Hull and will take heart from the fact they held Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal's arch north London rivals, to a goalless draw on Sunday.
"We have to understand the opposition and counter that with how we work," Dyche said. "Certainly against Tottenham we made it difficult against them.
"We edged the game against Manchester City and it's not often you do that against one of the 'superpowers'.
"I'm happy with how the team is operating this season."
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