By support

31st Dec, 2016 | 1:41pm

Wenger delivers Chelsea verdict, Arsenal fans will be alarmed

By Matt Farr

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger admits that Chelsea already have one hand on the Premier League title and that it is theirs to lose.

Chelsea have won 12 straight Premier League games, and moved six points clear at the top of the league with a convincing victory over Bournemouth on Boxing Day.

The Gunners meanwhile, relinquished their second-place spot to title rivals Liverpool following back-to-back defeats to Everton and Manchester City earlier in December.

Wenger’s side also allowed Tottenham and Manchester United to pull themselves back within reach of fourth-place, with Arsenal now just a point clear of fifth-placed Tottenham.

Arsenal face Crystal Palace at the Emirates on Sunday, on the back of a last-gasp victory over West Brom, courtesy of Olivier Giroud’s 86th-minute header.

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They go into the game already nine points adrift of league leaders Chelsea, and failure to pick up all three points against struggling Palace will all but put an end to their title hopes.

Wenger admitted to Sky Sports that Chelsea were now firmly in the driving seat to lift the title at the end of the season.

While the Arsenal boss did not give up hope of his side retaining their own hopes of a challenge, his verdict will alarm Gunners fans hoping for an end to the club’s 13-year title drought.

“Of course [Chelsea’s run brings more pressure]. Every time you drop points you are in danger. Secondly, you hope that somebody would stop them soon, because if they win all their games until the end of the season, nobody can catch them.

“I will say what we usually say in England: it’s theirs to lose now. But the only way we can keep as close as possible is to focus on performances and come back to a consistent way.

“If you had lived with me for three days after the Man City game, you would have understood, and not have asked that question in fact, because I was absolutely desperate after these two games,” he said.

“We lost under very special circumstances as well, you know. It’s the first time in 20 years that I lose a game with two offside goals of that stature. On top of that we were 1-o up in both games, we had the chances to score the second goal and third goal.

“We had to analyse and make our own criticisms, and come back with more urgency defensively, because we gave two easy goals away.”

Arsenal will be kept very busy in the new year, with a run of four fixtures in the first two weeks. However, they will fancy themselves – or at least have to – against each of their January opponents, particularly Swansea and Burnley.

However, it gets much tougher for the Gunners in February and March, with a trip to leaders Chelsea on February 4, before a potentially season-ending run, where they twice go up against Champions League knockout-round opponents Bayern Munich, and travel to Southampton and Liverpool.

Therefore it is imperative that Arsenal ensure they take full advantage against Crystal Palace on Sunday.

In other Arsenal news, Mark Lawrenson believes the Gunners do not need to replace this player next month, despite struggling in his absence.