London – Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal can take advantage of inconsistency among the Premier League title contenders and return to the top four of the table.
Wenger's side have recovered from their own blip to record back-to-back wins ahead of this Saturday's trip to Aston Villa, whereas Chelsea and Manchester United were defeated in domestic action last weekend.
Reigning champions and league leaders Manchester City also dropped points at West Ham recently and have been knocked out of the Champions League, offering Wenger hope of mounting a challenge at the top end of the league.
“With what is going on in the league, it looks like the team that can show consistency has a chance and if we are able to show consistency now we have a chance to come back to the top teams,” said Wenger.
“I am highly encouraged by the results last weekend because if you have a team who doesn't drop points no matter what you do, you will never come back once the difference is there,” added the Frenchman, whose side head into the weekend four points outside the Champions League places.
“We had a difficult period, I hope now we can show the consistency that is needed to come back.”
Wenger has been pleased with his new signings over the last week and Jack Wilshere's return from injury.
Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski have played key roles in the wins over Tottenham and Montpellier, while Wilshere was on the scoresheet against the French side as Arsenal secured a place in the last 16 of the Champions League.
“That shows there are good vibes in the dressing room, that they feel accepted, that they feel part of it and that they are capable to adapt to our style of play quite quickly,” Wenger said.
Theo Walcott has been ruled out of the trip to Villa Park but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should overcome a hip problem.
Abou Diaby will be out for another three or four weeks with his thigh injury, Wenger confirmed. Kieran Gibbs returns but Andre Santos is out with an abdominal strain.
Wenger feels his side will have enough to earn victory against Villa.
“I've just watched their (Villa's) game against Manchester United. They're a dynamic side,” he said.
“I think it will be down to our performance because we know we played QPR who had not won, and we won in the last minute.”
Villa midfielder Barry Bannan has claimed he has never been happier in his career at Villa Park and believes that is all down to his manager Paul Lambert.
The Birmingham side find themselves in the relegation zone but Bannan is enjoying working with Lambert, a fellow Scot, who arrived at the club from Norwich City in pre-season.
“This is the happiest I've ever been at Villa – and a lot of that is down to the manager,” said Bannan, the 22-year-old who has come through the club's youth set up and also had loan spells at Derby County, Blackpool and Leeds United.
“He has been a breath of fresh air for this club. He's just been brilliant.
“The sessions are fantastic and the lads really enjoy coming into training each morning and striving to improve each day ahead of the weekend game.
“But, more than that, he's just a great boss. His man-management skills are second to none.
“He believes in his players, he trusts his players and that really comes across to us as a group. He's just so positive.
“I appreciate the fans are worried about being in the bottom three but it's not fazing us and it's certainly not fazing the gaffer.” – Sapa-AFP