Arsenal star stresses need for strong start to Premier League season

Mikel Arteta, Arsenal

Mikel Arteta, Arsenal - Credit: EMPICS Sport

Midfielder Mikel Arteta has reiterated that Arsenal cannot afford any early slip-ups if they are to be among the Premier League title contenders this season.

Arteta captained the Gunners side that suffered their first defeat of pre-season on Sunday as Galatasaray came from behind to win 2-1 and seize the Emirates Cup.

The north Londoners have just one warm-up match to play – Saturday’s friendly against Manchester City on neutral turf in Helsinki, kick-off 3pm – before they begin their league campaign at home to Aston Villa.

And, despite the setback against Galatasaray, the 31-year-old Spaniard is confident that Arsenal remain on course to make a positive start to the new season.

“We’ve got another good test against Manchester City on Saturday and then we’re starting and we know we’ve got to start really well,” Arteta admitted.

“We cannot afford to drop points at the start of the season as we’ve done in the last couple of seasons. We need to close the gap with the teams who are trying to win the title.

“In the last two seasons we’ve been too far, but I think we’re not going to be far this season. We know each other better and the things we’re doing right in the games, we seem very comfortable and very compact.

Most Read

“The atmosphere has been unbelievable. We all get on really well, we’ve been training really hard and we’ve been playing well in pre-season and I think we’ll be fine for the start.”

The Gunners eventually finished third in the Emirates Cup table, having come from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Napoli in their first game, despite an early penalty miss from Lukas Podolski.

Olivier Giroud’s acrobatic strike, coupled with a late Laurent Koscielny header, gave them a share of the spoils against last season’s Serie A runners-up.

And Arsenal seemed on course to win the trophy for the first time since 2010 when Theo Walcott’s cross-cum-shot sailed into the Galatasaray net just before half-time in their second game.

But those hopes were dashed as former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba won a controversial penalty against substitute Ignasi Miquel and netted from the spot before taking advantage of a tiring Gunners defence to hit a late winner.

“I think both games were very competitive,” Arteta reflected. “Fitness-wise it was quite demanding as well, but we’re disappointed with the result.

“We controlled the game, but we were a bit fatigued in the last 20 to 25 minutes and you could see that we dropped the shape a little bit as well, but that is normal at this stage.

“Apart from that, we’ve been progressing very well.”

Manager Arsene Wenger gave most of his squad, apart from those who are still on the injury list – including club captain Thomas Vermaelen, left-back Nacho Monreal and winger Ryo Miyachi – a run-out at some stage of the tournament.

France under-20 striker Yaya Sanogo, who is the only new addition to Wenger’s squad so far this summer, made his Arsenal debut in the first hour against Galatasaray.

But Arteta believes that the former Auxerre youngster will not be the only new face at the Emirates by the time the transfer window closes in just under four weeks’ time.

“We want to start the season with new faces, I think that’s what we’re all hoping,” added the Gunners midfielder. “That’s going to give us a big boost and everyone is very positive.

“I am convinced it will happen – I have no doubts about it, but sometimes it takes time and I know the boss is working really hard on it, the board as well.

“The great players, normally they come at the end of the transfer window and the club are working hard to do this.”