Arsenal striker says Gunners need to hit the ground running

Arsenal's Lukas Podolski (left) celebrates with Per Mertesacker

Arsenal's Lukas Podolski (left) celebrates with Per Mertesacker - Credit: EMPICS Sport

Lukas Podolski says a strong start is essential if Arsenal are to post a genuine challenge for the Premier League title next season.

The Gunners, who open their league campaign at home to Aston Villa on August 17, have lost immediate ground on their rivals in each of the last two years.

Arsene Wenger’s side kicked off last season with disappointing 0-0 draws against Sunderland and Stoke, leaving them four points adrift of defending champions Manchester City with just two games played.

However, that represented an improvement on the previous year, when Arsenal garnered just one point from their first three games and suffered an 8-2 thrashing at Manchester United.

And Podolski, currently preparing for his second season in the Premier League, knows the Gunners must hit the ground running this time.

“There are five or six teams who will fight for first place in the Premier League, and we are one of those teams,” said the German international striker. “We will keep it going and fight for the championship.

“I’m especially happy that the first game is at home – I think that’s important. Then we have an important match to qualify for the Champions League – home and away – and we know we have to win those.

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“You can never afford to start slowly, you have to start strong and fast. In the last 15 matches of last season I think we were one of the top teams in the league.

“We must have that concentration in every game – every game is important. If we can start [in August] like we finished the last few months of last season, the new season will be much better.”

Podolski, who joined the Gunners from FC Cologne a year ago, adapted quickly to Premier League football by opening his goalscoring account in the 2-0 win over Liverpool that followed their draws with Sunderland and Stoke.

Despite starting in a wide role on the left-hand side for much of the season, the 28-year-old went on to amass a total of 16 goals and 12 assists in all competitions.

And Podolski – who netted Arsenal’s fifth goal in their 7-0 win over the Indonesia Dream Team in Jakarta on Sunday – is confident that there is better to come this season.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he added. “I will be strong, maybe stronger than last year. I’ll help the team and try to fight for first place for the fans.

“I will score goals and make assists, and help the team. I think we must be strong as a team next season.”

n You can hear more from Lukas Podolski, Aaron Ramsey, Arsene Wenger and others in the August issue of the official Arsenal Magazine – available now from all good newsagents and club stores, priced at £3.50.

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