Arsenal still Premier League contenders
Crisis-hit Arsenal cannot be ruled out of the English Premier League title race, despite their disasters on the pitch and dressing-room dust-ups, according to bitter rival Sir Alex Ferguson.
The Manchester United boss said the Gunners were too good to discount — a crumb of comfort for old foe Arsene Wenger after the Arsenal chief watched his side slump to a desperate 3-0 defeat at Manchester City — their worst result of the season.
The imploding Gunners blew their chance to close the gap on the goal-starved league leaders in Saturday’s matches.
The top three were all held to goalless draws — top club Chelsea at home to Newcastle, second-placed Liverpool at home Fulham, and United away to Aston Villa.
Elsewhere, Portsmouth drew 2-2 with visitors Hull and Bolton grabbed a 3-1 win at Middlesbrough.
Ferguson said the fifth-placed Gunners could not be considered out of the title race.
“Arsenal have got too much quality to say that,” said the United boss.
“You also see the fighting qualities of Aston Villa, you can’t rule them out of getting in to that top four and staying there.
“They have an organised team now and (manager) Martin O’Neill’s done a terrific job with them and teams will find it hard coming here (Villa Park).”
William Gallas, stripped of the captaincy having blasted his team-mates in midweek for their lack of passion, was not even in the squad for the trip to Eastlands.
The damage worsened as Arsenal collapsed to their third defeat in four league games, leaving them 10 points off the pace in fifth place.
City’s in-form midfielder Stephen Ireland scored in the 45th minute and Brazil star Robinho chipped a cheeky second over goalkeeper and match-day captain Manuel Almunia in the 56th minute.
Two minutes after coming on as a substitute, Daniel Sturridge earned and scored a 90th-minute penalty to complete Arsenal’s misery.
Chelsea had 25 shots at Stamford Bridge but failed to score as their once imperious home form took another knock with a 0-0 draw against strugglers Newcastle, who failed to get a shot on target.
“Sometimes it is more easy to win away than at Stamford Bridge,” said Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Meanwhile, Liverpool’s Spain striker Fernando Torres took his failure to score at Anfield this season to a seventh straight game as his fledgling partnership with Robbie Keane once again failed to click.
Manchester United remain third, eight points behind Chelsea and Liverpool, after their goalless draw with Villa, a point behind them in fourth place.
The visitors’ Wayne Rooney missed the best chance of the game, firing over the crossbar from close range.
Hull stole a last-gasp point to deny Portsmouth victory in a 2-2 draw at Fratton Park thanks to an 89th-minute own goal from Pompey defender Noe Pamarot.
Hull defender Michael Turner cancelled out Peter Crouch’s opener before England right-back Glen Johnson scored a splendid goal for Pompey.
Bolton pulled themselves four points clear of the relegation zone with a 3-1 away win over Middlesbrough at the Riverside.
In a dire game at the Britannia Stadium, Stoke City beat rock-bottom visitors West Bromwich Albion 1-0 thanks to Mamady Sidibe’s header six minutes from time.© AFP 2013
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