Wenger wants fast start

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

LON­DON — Arse­nal man­ager Arsene Wenger be­lieves the strength of com­pe­ti­tion in the Premier League means his side can­not af­ford an­other slow start if it hopes to chal­lenge for the ti­tle.

Arse­nal has lost three of its past four open­ing games, with last term’s 4-3 de­feat at home to Liver­pool set­ting the tone for a cam­paign in which the club missed out on Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the first time since 1997.

Wenger’s squad launches the new cam­paign at home to Le­ices­ter City on Fri­day, and on Sun­day he urged his play­ers to har­ness the mo­men­tum from a promis­ing pre­sea­son that cul­mi­nated in vic­tory over Chelsea in the 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,” Wenger said at Wem­b­ley.

“We had some bad starts in the last four years in the first game of the Premier­ship, but this year 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 af­ter 90 min­utes.

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

Wenger said Ozil had “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, re­cently signed Bos­nian de­fender Sead Ko­lasinac, im­pressed Arse­nal’s fans with a se­ries of shud­der­ing chal­lenges be­fore can­cel­ing out Vic­tor Moses’s opener with a headed equal­izer in the 81st minute.

Mo­rata ‘needs time’

Alexan­dre La­cazette, Arse­nal’s club-record $61 mil­lion sign­ing from Lyon, had a more low-key de­but, but Wenger was en­cour­aged by his per­for­mance.

“La­cazette is stronger every week,” the man­ager said of the France in­ter­na­tional, who blasted a shot off 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.”

Chelsea man­ager An­to­nio Conte cut a frus­trated fig­ure and said he was “a bit an­gry” with ref­eree Bobby Madley.

Madley booked Blues mid­fielder Wil­lian for div­ing and showed Pe­dro a straight red card for an ugly foul on Mo­hamed El­neny shortly be­fore Ko­lasinac’s equal­izer.

Conte de­fended his de­ci­sion to al­low Thibaut Cour­tois to take a penalty af­ter the Bel­gian goal­keeper hoisted his ef­fort over the cross­bar.

“Cour­tois is one of the best play­ers to kick penal­ties,” said Conte, whose side be­gins its ti­tle de­fense at home to Burn­ley on Sat­ur­day.

“If you have a player that shows you dur­ing the train­ing ses­sions to be one of the best, you pick him to shoot the penalty. But don’t for­get (Al­varo) Mo­rata is a for­ward and he did the same.”

New sign­ing Mo­rata also mis­cued in the shootout, drag­ging his spot-kick wide of the left post to com­plete an in­aus­pi­cious cameo ap­pear­ance and al­low­ing Olivier Giroud to net the win­ning penalty.

“Mo­rata needs to work on that, but it’s nor­mal — he’s been with us for only one week,” said Conte.

Arsene Wenger

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