Arsene Wenger issues warning to Arsenal's Premier League rivals

 

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has warned the rest of the Barclays Premier League title challengers his strengthened squad will be "up for it" again next season.

The Gunners ended their warm-up schedule with a 4-0 win at Cologne, where summer signing Lukas Podolski grabbed a brace.

While the future of captain Robin van Persie has yet to be resolved one way or another, as Manchester United weigh up increasing their offer for the Dutchman, Wenger insists the new additions - which also include Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla - as well as the expected return to fitness of England midfielder Jack Wilshere means the Gunners will be capable of a more consistent challenge.

"We want to (compete for honours) and we have a desire to. We are up for it and what we want is to come out of the season and know we have given our best," Wenger said on Arsenal Player.

"I feel we did that last year, finishing third with the start we had.

"The first target is to do as well as we can in every single game and see where we stand at the end of the season, but of course we want to fight for the championship." Wenger added: "We are in a much stronger position now because last summer we lost (Samir) Nasri and (Cesc) Fabregas, and on top of that we lost (Abou) Diaby and Wilshere (to injury).

"We lost four players at the start of last season and that is not the case this time."

Van Persie, who announced earlier this summer he would not be signing a contract extension past the end of the season, received a mixed reception from travelling Arsenal fans when he came on in the second half against Cologne.

United are understood to be the main player in the market for Van Persie, but Arsenal are expected to hold out for an improved offer nearer to £20million at which they are likely to consider doing a deal rather than see the striker walk away for free next summer.

German international Podolski could emerge as the Gunners main goal threat should their skipper move ahead of the transfer deadline.

Podolski is relishing life at his new club.

"I have felt like a part of Arsenal from the first day and I am very proud to play here and wear the shirt," he said.

"It was a great match and in my first game I scored two goals, so it was very good.

"It was a good test for us and I hope we can win against Sunderland next week."

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has, meanwhile, returned to Arsenal for treatment on an ankle injury after reporting for international duty with England ahead of Wednesday's friendly against Italy in Berne.

PA

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