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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Wenger worried another slow start will wreck Arsenal's Premier League title chances

The London side have lost their opening league game in three of the past four seasons, and their manager wants to avoid that happening again when new campaign starts on Friday.

Arsene Wenger, right, may have guided Arsenal to another Community Shield title, but his immediate focus is now on the London side starting the new Premier League campaign strongly. Andrew Couldridge / Reuters
Arsene Wenger, right, may have guided Arsenal to another Community Shield title, but his immediate focus is now on the London side starting the new Premier League campaign strongly. Andrew Couldridge / Reuters

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 defeat at home to Liverpool setting the tone for a campaign in which they missed out on Uefa Champions League qualification for the first time since 1997.

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Wenger's men launch the new campaign at home to Leicester City on Friday 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 Ozil and Aaron Ramsey, with the former still regaining fitness after the Confederations Cup and the two other players nursing minor injuries.

Wenger said Ozil 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's opener with a headed 81st-minute equaliser.

Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal's club-record £46.5 million (Dh223m) 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."