Belfast Telegraph

Wenger taking nothing for granted

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has warned his side cannot expect any "presents" from their Barclays Premier League rivals this season as the Gunners look to mount a long-overdue sustained title challenge.

With the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, Wenger is now the longest-serving boss in the top flight, while the managerial changes at both Manchester City and Chelsea could offer Arsenal the advantage of stability when the new campaign kicks off this weekend.

Wenger, though, warned against any suggestions life would thus be made somewhat more straightforward for Arsenal, who have not won a trophy since 2005.

"The fact that of the four top teams last year, three have changed manager will certainly create the most interest to see how they all respond to that," Wenger told Arsenal Player.

"These teams changed managers, but there is a stability there [in terms of the players], so that shouldn't create too much uncertainty.

"(But) let's not expect presents from these clubs because that would be the wrong way to go into the championship - let's just think they will be as strong as ever and make sure that we are strong."

England midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - who was one of three Gunners involved against Scotland at Wembley on Wednesday - also stressed Arsenal must deliver consistency, having gone on an unbeaten 10-match league run at the end of last season.

"We have got to focus on our job in hand," he said.

"I am sure for the neutral looking in, with the managerial changes and players coming in, it always makes it exciting, that is what the Premier League is all about.

"I am sure it is going to be a really good season, another exciting one."

Chief executive Ivan Gazidis may have talked up Arsenal's new "financial firepower" at the end of last season, but so far the only confirmed signing has been France Under-21 forward Yaya Sanogo, and that was on a free transfer from Auxerre.

Arsenal, who failed to land Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain earlier in the summer, continue to pursue wantaway Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, but will have to up their bid to closer the £50 million demanded to close out the protracted transfer.

Wolfsburg have, meanwhile, moved to deny reports a £17million deal for Brazil midfielder Luiz Gustavo has been agreed, while 20-year-old Lille winger Florian Thauvin is also said to be on Wenger's radar, together with Romania forward Ciprian Marica following his release by Schalke.

While the Gunners boss clearly is determined to bolster his squad, albeit not in time for next week's crucial Champions League play-off first leg against Fenerbahce in Turkey, Wenger accepts patience will be key as the clock ticks down towards the September 2 deadline.

"We are active. We are in a situation like Manchester United, like Chelsea, where everybody expects signings and at the moment not a lot has happened," the Arsenal manager said.

"There are 18 days to go, so that is a long time in the transfer market and we will be active.

"I cannot certify what the number [of players coming in will be], but we will be active until the end, that is for sure."

Arsenal have fitness doubts over several players ahead of the Villa game, including England forward Theo Walcott (knee), midfielders Mikel Arteta (thigh) and Aaron Ramsey (ankle).

The Gunners, meanwhile, have announced Bodog as their official Asian betting partner in a three-year, multi-million pound deal. The Emirates Stadium club enjoyed a successful pre-season tour to Indonesia, Vietnam and Japan earlier this summer as they continue to develop the Arsenal brand in new markets.

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