Arsene Wenger will take his Arsenal squad out to a 10-day training camp in Austria today insisting the hard work starts now as he looks to mould them into a team capable of winning a first Premier League title since 2004.
The Gunners manager ran the rule over summer signings Laurent Koscielny and Marouane Chamakh during Saturday's opening pre-season friendly against Barnet, where youngster Jay Simpson netted a double in a 4-0 win.
Wenger changed his entire line-up at half-time, and used three goalkeepers, although Manuel Almunia – whose position as Arsenal number one is by no means secure – was not available because of illness.
It was a welcome change for the Arsenal manager to get back to football following a summer of continued speculation over the future of captain Cesc Fabregas, which Wenger maintains must now stop.
"There was a lot of unneeded talk. It is not pleasant to read that every day. Now, the story has to stop," Wenger declared. "Cesc is our captain, he is so important to us and we want to keep him. That is why we were not listening to any offers. It was not a problem of money, just the desire to keep him at the club."
While Fabregas, who has five years of his contract left to run, and fellow World Cup finalist Robin van Persie will not be asked to return until the Emirates Cup begins on 31 July, the rest of the Arsenal players who were out in South Africa will join up in Austria, where warm-up matches have been arranged against Sturm Graz and SC Neusiedl.
"We finished third last season, so we of course try to improve," Wenger said. "Manchester City have now joined in on the big targets, so it will be hard.
"We have six players coming back to join us on Monday when we go to Austria, and then the hard work starts."Reuse content