Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger refuses to rule out Liverpool & Aston Villa in Premier League title race

Frenchman admits Robin van Persie is close to returning to full training
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes Liverpool are still in contention for the Premier League title despite currently residing in the relegation zone of the table.

The Reds have had their worst start to a season in 57 years and are currently facing speculation that they may lose Spaniards Fernando Torres and Pepe Reina in the January transfer window.

Despite the Anfield club's turbulent season, however, the Gunners boss included Roy Hodgson’s side in the seven teams the Frenchman considers title contenders.

When asked who he thought would challenge for the Premier League along with Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Wenger commented to the club's official website: "Liverpool and Aston Villa.

"It looks unlikely that Liverpool will win it but you can't rule them completely out because mathematically the gap is not massive and they have a quality squad.

"Overall it is very tight at the top and two conclusions come out of that. The consistency will be rewarded in the end and that everybody can drop points against everybody.

"Even if you look at the teams that are in the second half of the table at the moment they are not far and, if they have a run of two or three good games, they can aspire to be in Europe.

"I believe that the league is very difficult and you have to be focused for every single game or you will drop points. But realistically seven teams could win the league."

With regards to the injury sustained by Kieran Gibbs in Wednesday's League Cup victory over Newcastle United, Wenger insisted that he is expecting good news from Friday's scan.

"He has a scan today - we do not expect any further damage," he said. "It will be a question of weeks - is it two or is it four?

"It is difficult to know when it's a medial knee ligament. Gibbs is one of the players I still do not have integrated in my mind that he is out [of the West Ham game] but he is unfortunately."

Ahead of Saturday's meeting with West Ham United, the Frenchman confirmed that Manuel Almunia, Robin van Persie, Thomas Vermaelen and Abou Diaby remain sidelined.

"We have available the players who played at Newcastle and those who were rested after playing at Manchester City. We don't have any other players coming back," he confirmed.

"That means Almunia, Van Persie and Vermaelen are still out. Diaby is still out of course.

"Ramsey is in full training at the end of next week and Van Persie as well. Almunia is more difficult to know - one or two weeks maximum."

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