By Chris Harris
Gael Clichy insists that Arsenal never gave up hope of winning the title - even when they slipped nine points behind the leaders last month.
Arsène Wenger's side were written off as Premier League also-rans following back-to-back defeats against Manchester United and Chelsea. The second of those setbacks left Arsenal well adrift of their London rivals, but successive wins over Liverpool, Sunderland and Stoke have reduced the gap at the top to just three points.
Suddenly Clichy and company are right in the thick of the title hunt again and he, for one, is not surprised. According to the French left-back, the Arsenal squad never lost belief and never doubted their ability to bounce back.
"People were saying we were not good enough, when we were playing Manchester United and we lost against Chelsea, but we kept the confidence really high because we know we have the players and the quality to do it," said Clichy, speaking at Arsenal in the Community's 25th anniversary celebrations.
"When you play for a team like Arsenal, you want to be the best and to be the best is to compete week-in, week-out against any team in the league.
"Of course, when you find yourself 11 points behind the leaders [as Arsenal were in November], you ask yourself: 'It’s going to be really difficult. Are we capable of doing it?' and a few weeks later you find yourself back in the title race and that’s a good feeling.
"So that shows you the character in the squad and, once again, with the players we have, I’m sure we can do it. It’s going to be difficult, but I’m sure we can."
Of course, Arsenal have been here in the recent past. Wenger's side set the pace at the top of the Premier League for much of the 2007/08 campaign only to fall away in the home straight. The Gunners are coming from off the pace on this occasion and Clichy is determined to fight to the finish this time.
"Two years ago was a good chance," he reflected. "We stayed at the top of the table for seven months and we finished not strong enough and we didn’t win anything at the end.
"I don’t know if this year is the best opportunity, but certainly it can be a good year for us, if we can maintain our performance. We’ve played the big teams so now it’s down to us to show people we want it and we’re ready for it. We will try to grab the chance to win something.
"If we win our games we have a really big chance of doing something this year, so that’s all that matters to us, to take game after game and show people that we can perform week-in, week-out."Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source