By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger admits he is surprised by how quickly Arsenal have hauled themselves back into title contention.
A home defeat to Chelsea on November 29 left Wenger's team 11 points adrift of their conquerors - albeit with a game in hand. But the pendulum has swung dramatically in the four weeks since that disappointing day.
Arsenal have taken 13 points from a possible 15 in December, culminating in Sunday's impressive 3-0 win over top-four rivals Aston Villa. Chelsea, in contrast, have won just once in their last five Premier League games while Manchester United have lost twice in the same period.
The upshot is that Arsenal are just four points behind Chelsea and two behind United - and they still have that game in hand on both their rivals. Wenger has the utmost confidence in his players but even he has been taken aback by the speed of their recovery.
"Yes [I am surprised], because I could say we would win the games but you couldn’t predict that our opponents would drop so many points," said the Frenchman.
"After the Chelsea game I said openly that Chelsea would drop points on the basis of what I had seen. And they did. But how many they would drop I didn’t know.
"It makes the title race interesting now. We are in a strong position. We can have belief but there is a long way to go and we have to keep our feet on the ground and continue to improve together."
The Premier League has been a strange beast this season - and an entertaining one at that. In years gone by the prospect of losing five or more games would have been anathema to title hopefuls but, according to Wenger, the rules have changed now.
"I just think the Premier League is very open," he said.
"We go to Portsmouth on Wednesday and you know it will be another tough game. What has changed in the league this season is that all the teams can make results. You have seen Birmingham against Chelsea. It is like that anywhere.
"You go anywhere now and it’s not that you go there, turn up and take three points. That has gone. It has gone - until March. After that some teams will be safe, or will not go for Europe and you take some easier points. But from now until March in this championship the consistent team will be rewarded."Copyright 2017 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