By Richard Clarke

This year’s title race will be merciless, according to Arsène Wenger.

Speaking after Arsenal’s 2-0 win at West Ham on Sunday, the Frenchman argued that “any weakness will be punished” between now and May as the so-called ‘Big Four’ - plus a couple of other contenders – battle it out for top spot.

This weekend was a case in point. Manchester United dropped points at Everton on Saturday and, the next day, Chelsea lost to Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. Aston Villa and Hull also kept up the pace with big victories.

For Wenger, last season’s title race is a lesson. By the end of October in 2007/08, Arsenal had been top for five weeks and they would not be usurped for any serious length of time until the middle of March. However in mid-May they finished four points off the top two.

“I said it many times we were very, very close last year,” said Wenger at Upton Park. “We got 83 points and we lost only three games in the whole season. Teams who have got 83 points have been champions.

“Manchester United had a fantastic run in the second part of the season but we dropped a little bit of quality in April.

“That means any weakness will be punished this year too.

“It will be a bit tight again. But I believe it will be interesting as well.

“One week ago everybody made Chelsea super favourites but today it is Liverpool. Things change very quickly and that makes it interesting.”

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27 Oct 2008