London: Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, has declared that his notoriously youthful side is "mature enough" to claim the Premier League crown this season.
With Manchester City spending big and with the gradual but marked improvement of Aston Villa and Everton over the past few seasons, pundits and punters alike are tipping the Gunners to vacate the top four this term.
However, Wenger is confident that his fresh-faced squad can compete, and even best, the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United in the coming campaign.
He said, "To talk of winning the league is an audacious statement but I built this team and I want to deliver with this team. At 22 or 23 a team is mature enough to deliver."
There was considerable speculation earlier in the year that the French tactician should ship at Ashburton Grove and man the helm at Real Madrid.
However, despite the lure of bossing the second coming of Florentino Perez's Galacticos, Wenger's devotion to his long-term scheme in London proved decisive.
"I felt if I left I would have in some way betrayed my beliefs. It was nothing to do with Real Madrid, it was about Arsenal," he said.
"I knew what Real were about to do but I have a project here that I started four years ago. I could not leave at this stage of their development."
First Published: Friday, August 14, 2009, 18:43