'This is a sensational title race'

Alexis scores against Leicester
Alexis scores against Leicester

Arsene Wenger has seen plenty in his three decades as a football manager - but even he is surprised by Leicester City.

The story of the season so far is the Foxes' remarkable rise to the top of the Premier League table. Seven wins in eight - culminating in Saturday's 3-2 victory at Everton - means they will stay at the summit for Christmas, regardless of the result when Arsenal and Manchester City meet on Monday.

With Crystal Palace and Watford just outside the Champions League places, this season is being billed as 'the year of the underdog'. Wenger, whose Arsenal side inflicted Leicester's only top-flight defeat back in September, says this year's title race has been good for English football - and stirs memories of his time in France.

“It inspires everybody," he said. "The teams behind by five or six points all think that with a good run they can be there. It is very open, but that’s what is sensational. It is not only a league where you think it’s only Real Madrid or Barcelona [who can win it]. I find it very good and very healthy.

“It happened [before] once in my life, when a friend of mine, [Jean-Claude] Suaudeau was coaching Nantes. He called me at the beginning of the season and asked me to give him on loan one of my players who was not a 100 per cent regular. I said: “I cannot give him to you on loan because I need him." He said: “You’re unfair because I will go down, they have sold my players and I have nobody left.”


"He won the championship that year with [Patrice] Loko, with [Reynald] Pedros. Thirty-two games unbeaten! Because he had no choice he played all the young players and in the end he won the championship. That’s the first time I’d seen it. Now we have a second [with Leicester]."

It remains to be seen whether Leicester can sustain their challenge, but Wenger is more concerned about Arsenal's title credentials. The Frenchman has led the Gunners to three Premier League crowns and he has a good feeling about the class of 2015/16.

"The teams behind by five or six points all think that with a good run they can be there"

Arsene Wenger

“What I feel is great team spirit and great unity in the dressing room, and a focus to go forward, that’s for sure," he said. "After that, we have to answer on the pitch whether we are good enough.

“We have to accept that [having our character questioned is] part of it but we have to give our answer on the pitch week-in week-out and that [criticism] will slowly die.

"It was true for a while because we were a young team and a young team can be up and down. But I believe now we have shown it… what we did at Olympiakos is not a team of no character. You need to be special to achieve that. We won the FA Cup in the last two seasons and you need character to win the FA Cup. Everybody would love to do it every year.

“We are the only team who has beaten Leicester basically, and in a convincing way. The character is down to consistency in life. That’s what I call character. All of us can be for one day in our life exceptional but character is to have a target and maintain your focus on that target. That’s what I call character and that’s what we have to show in the league."

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