By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger is convinced that this season's title race will be one of the closest in recent memory.
As we approach the halfway stage of the 2008/09 campaign, just eight points separate five clubs - Liverpool, Chelsea, Aston Villa, Manchester United and Arsenal. It's a far cry from the two-horse races which were commonplace during the 1990s and the first half of this decade.
So why has the dynamic changed at the top of the top flight? Wenger puts it down to an improvement beneath the 'Big Four' which has made life harder for the elite clubs and seen them drop points on a more regular basis. And the Frenchman should know - his team have slipped up against the unlikely trio of Fulham, Stoke and Hull City this season.
"I think even up front it could be the tightest race we have seen for a long, long time," said Wenger.
"It looks to me watching the games that everyone can drop points against everyone and for the first time for a long time… before a game it's not necessarily three points for Manchester United, for Chelsea, for Liverpool, for Arsenal.
"They [the rest of the Premier League] have improved. When we played Wigan Athletic they had [Amr] Zaki and [Kevin] Kilbane on the bench. That was not the case 10 years ago.
"[That's why I think] 78 to 85 points will be enough [to be champions]."Copyright 2013 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 24 Dec 2008