Arsene Wenger admits that Arsenal's chances of winning the league for the first time in seven years could hinge on their crucial game against Stoke.

The Gunners appeared to be out of the title race when they lost to Manchester United in December, but a run of nine league matches unbeaten has seen the Londoners drag themselves back into the reckoning.

"This is a very important one for us," Wenger told Arsenal TV Online. "The best way to win the Premier League is to win the game. It is only that which is important."

Arsenal could reduce the gap between themselves and leaders United to just one point with a victory and Wenger has called on his squad to secure what he believes could be a decisive win in the title race.

The Frenchman continued: "If you want to keep in touch with Manchester United, which we want more than anything, this game is vital.

"We have given so much in the Premier League, we have gone through so many difficult periods and have come back with such resilience."

Wenger will be without in-form striker Robin van Persie (hamstring) and defender Laurent Koscielny (back), but hopes the duo will be fit for Sunday's Carling Cup final against Birmingham.

Losing Van Persie is a big blow for the Gunners as he has scored five times in his last three matches, but Wenger hopes that Andrey Arshavin can weigh in with a few goals in the Dutchman's absence.

Arshavin has struggled for form and confidence, but Wenger feels scoring the winner in last week's 2-1 win over Barcelona has renewed the Russian's self-belief.

"I love Arshavin because he's a player who can always give you hope that he can make the difference," Wenger said. "He was troubled by confidence problems for a while but he is now back and that goal against Barcelona helped him."

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Topics:
Arsenal
Robin Van Persie
Andrey Arshavin
Stoke City
Football
League Cup
Premier League
Manchester United
Birmingham
Laurent Koscielny