Football

Wenger banking on flying start

Arsenal boss says quality of EPL title contenders leaves Gunners with little room for error

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes the strength of competition in the Premier League means his side cannot afford another false start if they are to challenge for the title.

Arsenal have lost three of their last four opening games, with last term's 4-3 home defeat by Liverpool setting the tone for a campaign in which they missed out on Champions League qualification for the first time since 1997.

Wenger's men launch the new campaign at home to Leicester City on Saturday morning (Singapore time) and he urged his players to harness the momentum from a promising pre-season that culminated in victory over Chelsea in Sunday's Community Shield.

"We want to find a good balance between the confidence we can get out of these games and the urgency that every Premiership game demands," he told reporters at Wembley.

"We had some bad starts in the last four years in the first game of the Premiership.

"But we had the intensity in our preparation games that is needed to be ready so let's go into the Premiership with the same discipline, the same spirit, and see where we can go.

"If you look at the Premiership, you have seven, eight teams who will say, 'We can win the Premier League.' That makes it very interesting."

Arsenal beat Chelsea 4-1 on penalties to win the Community Shield for the third time in four years after the game finished 1-1.

Arsenal were without Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Oezil and Aaron Ramsey, with the former still regaining fitness after the Confederations Cup and the two other players nursing minor injuries.

Wenger said Oezil had a "little chance" of playing against Leicester after taking a kick on the ankle in training and said Ramsey was in a similar position as he works to overcome a "little calf problem".

Wenger also said there was "nothing bad" about the injury sustained by club captain Per Mertesacker, who had to come off after being accidentally caught in the face by Gary Cahill's elbow.

Mertesacker's replacement, new Bosnian defender Sead Kolasinac, impressed Arsenal's fans with a series of shuddering challenges before cancelling out Victor Moses' opener with a headed 81st-minute equaliser.

Said Wenger: "I think he (Kolasinac) was outstanding today.

"He is physically very strong, naturally. You have players who were pumped up in the gym and players who were born strong. And he's the second part.

"In the Premiership, power plays a part. But it's not only that, I bought him as well for his attitude.

"I believe the modern game doesn't tolerate as many weaknesses anymore as it did 20 years ago. And it's always a combination of talent and attitude.

"He looks to me that he has good talent but as well a very strong and determined attitude, supported by a strong body."

Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal's club-record £46.5 million (S$82.75m) signing from Lyon, had a more low-key debut, but Wenger was encouraged by his performance.

"Lacazette is stronger every week," said Wenger of the France international, who hit the post midway through the first half.

"Today is the first time where you see that physically he's ready. He still needs to adapt to the intensity of the game.

"In the first half, he had very interesting movements. I believe he'll become stronger and stronger." - WIRE SERVICES

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