As 2016 dawns, Premier League front-runners Arsenal go in search of evidence that they are capable of striking out on their own in pursuit of a first title since 2004.
With Manchester United and Chelsea toiling, Liverpool rebuilding under Jurgen Klopp and Manchester City damagingly porous, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger appears to have reached a decisive juncture in his 19-year tenure.
His team have been top on New Year’s Day three times in the last 14 years, only to see their title hopes fade on each occasion, but Wenger feels that the current crop have what it takes to go the distance.
“I believe that we are mature enough and that we have the requested quality to fight and compete,” he said ahead of Saturday’s home game with third-bottom Newcastle United.
“The most important thing is to feel, at the end of the season, that we have given absolutely everything to be successful. It is not the date (New Year’s Day) that is decided you win the league. It shows you that we have a good chance as the statistics show you that eight of the past 11 years, the team who was top on New Year’s Day won it.”