Arise and shine, Arsenal
REPORTING FROM THE UK
ARSENAL v MAN CITY
(Tomorrow, 10pm, SingTel mio TV Ch 111)
The time for talking is over.
Arsenal have built their new stadium. They have endured a nine-year trophy drought while they dealt with the mortgage payments.
They have begun to sign top-level players once again. They have won a domestic cup. Now they must step up and compete for major trophies.
And it all starts tomorrow at Wembley against Manchester City.
City, since 2008, have represented the absolute opposite of Arsenal.
While the Gunners practised austerity, City went on a splurge.
While Wenger hesitated over transfer targets, City shouldered the scattergun and opened fire.
Even worse, Wenger was forced to watch a parade of stars leave the Emirates Stadium for the Etihad, unable or unwilling to offer the wages that might have kept them in place.
But now both teams have readjusted.
City have spent carefully for some time now, and are focusing their efforts behind the scenes.
Arsenal have rediscovered their confidence in the transfer market.
Despite Bacary Sagna's defection to City, the gap has narrowed between the two teams.
The French defender can hardly be blamed for wanting a big move as his career enters its final stages.
But will he have cause to regret his decision? Are Arsenal about to make the jump back to the big time?
They have so many pieces in position to support their surge.
The stadium is one of the nation's finest and it allows the club to make over £3 million ($6.3m) in match day revenues every home game.
The academy is excellent and still produces players every season who have a serious chance of first-team football.
There is a stability in the dugout and in the boardroom that supports steady, calm progress.
It's the players who always fall painfully short when it matters.
For all of the enthusiasm generated by their FA Cup victory in May, it's worth wondering what the mood would be like had Hull held onto their 2-0 lead.
Arsenal have players of real quality, most notably World Cup winner Mesut Oezil and new signing Alexis Sanchez, who performed so well for Barcelona.
There are few teams who boast a defensive pairing as solid as Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker.
Aaron Ramsey, had it not been for his injury, would have challenged for the Player of the Year award.
There are others too, but they lack the consistency required.
Jack Wilshere is one of the most exciting English players of his generation, but he has stagnated over the past two years. Perhaps this is due to his struggles with injuries, but that's not the whole story.
He is too easily wound up by opposing players, too patchy with the ball. He needs a good season.
Theo Walcott was beginning to fulfil his potential before his injury last season. He must rise to the challenge now and not be daunted by it. There were signs of a growing intelligence and composure a year ago. It must continue.
Olivier Giroud can be an effective forward, but he needs to do it every week. So do Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs, Wojceich Szczesny, the list goes on. Arsenal need more from them.
It's not a technical issue, it's mental.
Last season, Arsenal were compromised by anxiety before big games.
They lost the first home game of the season to Aston Villa. They conceded five away at Liverpool, six away at Chelsea and Manchester City. They even lost at Old Trafford to stuttering Manchester United. And yet they could go on long unbeaten runs for the rest of the campaign.
Well, this is their first big game of the season and it's time to put a marker down and send a message to their rivals.
Are Arsenal going to compete for the big prizes or are they content to be also-rans, diligently securing their Champions League football and making the occasional play for a domestic cup?
We'll find our first clue tomorrow.
We have the ambition, we have the desire, we should have the confidence from last season so we have a good basis. It’s now time to make sure we have the right attitude and the right hunger to go for more.
- Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Wenger: Arsenal no longer a selling club
Arsene Wenger believes the days of Arsenal being at the mercy of the richest clubs in the world are over.
A number of former Gunners stars will be lining up against Wenger's side in the Premier League this season, including Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri and Emmanuel Adebayor.
Over the last two years, however, Arsenal have turned the tide, holding on to their most valuable assets while bringing in the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Oezil.
"We are less vulnerable now, that is for sure," Gunners boss Wenger (above) said on Thursday.
"In the last two years, we bought Oezil and Sanchez - five years ago, we would have lost Oezil and Sanchez.
"We have more money available to buy today than we had five years ago.
"We can compete better. For years, we have lost top players without the ability to replace them because of financial management."
As well as Sanchez, Arsenal have spent £16 million ($33.7m) on 19-year-old defender Calum Chambers, who became the latest in a long line of players to leave Southampton this summer.
Wenger compared Arsenal's past difficulties to the current situation at Saints, from where Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale have also departed in recent years.
"It is tiring to lose players - whether it be to Man City or somewhere else - it is the same," the Arsenal boss said.
"Southampton would say the same today. If you look at the team Southampton had last year and then add Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott and Gareth Bale, you see the quality of the work they have done.
"They are in a similar position today to where we were before in relation to the other clubs who have superior financial power."
Wenger continued: "I don't think it's bullying - a transfer is an agreement between three parties and they are in a position where they can say 'no'.
"The players end up at the richest clubs. Man United did that for years - they had superior financial power and they still do."
The richest teams are increasingly coming under pressure from Uefa's Financial Fair Play regulations, which inhibit a club's ability to spend more than they earn.
Wenger admits those regulations are starting to influence clubs like Man City but also believes there are loopholes to be exploited.
"It looks like they have some restrictions, but they have clever people who can think about how to get around them and they do that very well," Wenger said.
"Time will tell. Uefa has to be cautious as well because of television financial power.
"If you kick a club like Paris St Germain out tomorrow, the French television companies will go to Uefa and ask for their money back. It's not as easy as it looked at the start." - PA Sport.
Eight City players to miss Community Shield match
Premier League champions Manchester City will be without eight players for tomorrow's Community Shield clash with Arsenal at Wembley.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini said yesterday captain Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, Fernandinho, Sergio Aguero, Martin Demichelis, Frank Lampard and Bacary Sagna had only returned to training this week after being given extended time off after the World Cup.
Spanish striker Alvaro Negredo is out with a broken foot.
Arsenal will be without their three German World Cup winners - Mesut Oezil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski. - Reuters.