Arsene Wenger has challenged his young Arsenal team to come out all guns blazing when the new Barclays Premier League season kicks off at Liverpool and lay down an early marker in their quest for a first championship title since 2004.
The Gunners are currently at a training camp in Austria and played the second game of their pre-season schedule against Sturm Graz on Wednesday night, winning 3-0. With this season's title race expected to be one of the most hotly contested in years, Wenger knows full well the importance of a flying start as the Gunners host newly-promoted Blackpool next and then travel to Blackburn.
"The aim is to continue to progress as we have been doing," Wenger told the August edition of the official Arsenal magazine.
"We were very close last year - closer than the previous season - so we are heading in the right way. We hope we can continue that this season.
"It is important to start well, start strongly and get into a good position early on and to try to maintain the level."
Centre-back Thomas Vermaelen is in no doubt Arsenal can silence the critics and mount a sustained title challenge.
"We have a good young group who are very aggressive and want to improve," said the Belgium international, set to partner new signing Laurent Koscielny.
"I think people will always say we can't compete - it is not the first time, but we have to do what we always do which is work hard and play our own game, then we can compete."
Vermaelen added to Arsenal TV Online: "I hope we can compete for the title this year and I am convinced we will,"
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