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Stern words needed to kick-start Arsenal's Premier League title challenge

By Jim van Wijk

Defender Per Mertesacker has revealed how clear-the-air talks helped Arsenal kick-start their Barclays Premier League campaign with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace.

The Gunners delivered the desired response after defeat on the opening day, at home against West Ham, with a solid performance against the Eagles on Sunday afternoon.

Mertesacker, who again captained the side at Selhurst Park with club skipper Mikel Arteta on the bench, was heavily critical of the squad's collective below-par performance against the Hammers.

The 6ft 7ins German centre-back admitted there had been some stern words at London Colney this week, which helped the players regain their focus, and victory lifted the mood ahead of the visit of Liverpool next Monday night.

Asked if he felt there had been a need to address the team's shortcomings directly, Mertesacker said: "Obviously when everything goes very smooth in pre-season, you avoid those talks which are sometimes very important.

"That (the need for those talks) was the case last week when we came out of the (West Ham) match where no-one knew exactly what we did, so we just had to come back to our game.

"You could already feel something when you are in the relegation zone (in the table), and not having (produced) in that (West Ham) game what everyone expected from you, so it was important to bounce back.

"Against Palace, it was good possession, to play the ball through the midfield and penetrate them.

"Later (in the game) we made it difficult for ourselves, but overall it was a very encouraging performance from top to bottom."

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