By Chris Harris

Arsène Wenger is confident Arsenal can outlast Aston Villa in this year's Premier League 'marathon' - and the more traditional members of the top four too.

Martin O'Neill's side have been a revelation this season. They currently occupy fourth spot - the cherished final Champions League place - and hold a five-point advantage over Wenger's side. Indeed, Villa are just a point behind Liverpool and Chelsea and three behind the champions and leaders, Manchester United.

The general consensus is that Arsenal and Villa will battle it out for fourth spot but, with 15 games remaining, Wenger has his sights rather higher. The Frenchman was in bullish mood when the race for Champions League places cropped up at his pre-match press conference.

Wenger was asked if he was still convinced his team would finish above Villa. "Not only above Aston Villa," was his reply.

"I'm not only convinced that we will finish above Aston Villa. I've nothing against Martin O'Neill. But you ask me who will be manager of the year and you have to wait until the end of the year. They have played very well until now, of course.

"But you judge a marathon at the end of the marathon. No-one remembers who was leading after 20 miles."

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30 Jan 2009