Arsenal vs Crystal Palace: Arsene Wenger 'surprised' by Tony Pulis exit and believes Manchester United WILL challenge for the title

The Gunners face a manager-less Crystal Palace on Saturday evening after Pulis left the club on the eve of the new Premier League season

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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger has admitted he was “surprised” by the shock exit of Tony Pulis on Thursday night after he left Crystal Palace on the eve of the new Premier League season.

The Eagles travel to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday evening to take on Arsenal, who are already in a confident mood following last weekend’s 3-0 Community Shield win over Premier League champions Manchester City.

Palace posed the Gunners a tricky test last season before the Gunners were able to overcome them, and the same was expected when the two meet in their opening game of the season. But the sudden departure of Pulis has seen Palace installed as favourites for relegation, and with Arsenal strengthening the side that led the majority of last season with the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mathieu Debuchy, Arsenal fans will be confident of success tomorrow evening.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Wenger praised Pulis for the “remarkable job” he had done since taking over from Ian Holloway midway through last season, as he took Palace from their lowly total of four points and certain relegation to a hugely impressive 11th-place finish, claiming the Manager of the Season award in the process.


“It was a complete surprise for me,” said Wenger. “The only thing you can say is he's done a remarkable job there.”

Pulis left after a dispute with the club’s co-chairman Steve Parish over who controlled their transfer business following a summer of near-misses with a number of transfer targets. Wenger added that in his opinion, the manager should be left to deal with the club’s transfer business given that they are the ones who pick the team.

“Normally the manager is in control of transfers because we are competent enough to choose the team,” he added.

The Frenchman is no less targeting three points on Saturday, although he will want to avoid a repeat of last season when the Gunners suffered a 3-1 defeat at home to Aston Villa.

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“We are positive and confident but the performance tomorrow will depend on how we start and how we concentrate,” Wenger said. “The best way to achieve a fast start is take it game by game. Palace are always an uncomfortable opponent.

“We've had a serene environment in pre-season but what is important is how we perform at 5.30 on Saturday.”

The 64-year-old also confirmed that Laurent Koscielny will be fit to start the match after being substituted at half-time during the Community Shield success, but he confirmed that Mesut Özil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski will not feature after only returning to the club from World Cup duty on Monday. New signing Calum Chambers is likely to partner Koscielny as a result of Mertesacker’s absence.

“Koscielny should be back but the Germans are not ready yet,” revealed Wenger. “It will be a similar squad to [the] Man City [game].”

Calum Chambers has impressed for Arsenal since joining for £16m

With talk of a serious title challenge rife at the Emirates, Wenger admitted that his side were one of five teams that could win the Premier League this season. Along with the Gunners, Wenger claimed Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool could all claim top honours.

But it was his admission that Manchester United can win the title this year that surprised the most. United are looking to bounce back from last season’s dismal seventh place finish, but even with Louis van Gaal at the helm, their former midfielder and The Independent’s football columnist Paul Scholes believes they are not in a position to compete for the title just yet.

Wenger believes different though.

“The favourites [for the title] are Chelsea, Liverpool, Man United, Man City and us,” he explained. “I believe we have a chance because we were top for a long time but we have to take more points from the top teams.

“I'm happy with all the players I have signed. They have integrated with the team very well.”