Mikel Arteta has challenged big-spending Arsenal to deliver a statement of intent ahead of the Premier League season when they face treble winners Manchester City in the Community Shield on Sunday.
Arteta’s side have their sights set on dethroning City as they look to avenge last season’s painful collapse in the title race.
Fuelled by a spending spree of more than £200 million ($254 million) on England midfielder Declan Rice, Germany forward Kai Havertz and Dutch defender Jurrien Timber, Arsenal have an early opportunity to show they are equipped to end City’s three-year reign as champions.
Arsenal finished five points behind Pep Guardiola’s men despite holding an eight-point lead in April and Gunners boss Arteta knows this weekend’s glamour friendly at Wembley offers an opportunity to lay down a marker.
“For sure. After what we did last year, a lot of people are going to talk about what is next,” Arteta said.
“In the end, it will be about playing better and earning the right to win every match.
“We made some important signings, like other teams are doing, but when you are Arsenal, you have to handle that.”
The annual curtain-raiser to the English top-flight campaign does not always prove an accurate barometer for what is to come but it does serve as the perfect appetiser for the Premier League, which kicks off with City’s trip to Burnley on August 11.
Arsenal’s opener comes against Nottingham Forest the following day in a rematch with the team who ended their title bid with a 1-0 win at the City Ground in May.
While Arsenal have a burning desire to get their hands on the Premier League trophy for the first time since 2004, Guardiola’s side must prove they remain hungry for silverware.
Cementing their status as one of English football’s all-time great teams, City last season became only the second English club to win the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup in a single campaign, matching Manchester United’s achievement in 1998/99.
‘Still here to win’
Two months after Rodri’s goal sealed City’s long-awaited first Champions League crown against Inter Milan, Guardiola’s men are back in action as they attempt to produce an encore to their golden year.
City’s dynastic status ensures they are favourites to become the first English side to win the top-flight title four years in a row.
But there is one legitimate question hovering over the champions as they set off on their quest for a sixth title in seven seasons.
Can Guardiola refocus a squad potentially sated by so much success and possibly unsettled by close-season transfer movement?
City captain Ilkay Gundogan, a key member of Guardiola’s leadership group, has left for Barcelona and Algeria winger Riyad Mahrez has moved to Saudi club Al-Ahli.
Kyle Walker, Bernardo Silva and Aymeric Laporte have also been linked with moves away from the Etihad Stadium.
Croatia midfielder Mateo Kovacic has arrived from Chelsea to replace Gundogan and Joao Cancelo is back following a surprise loan move to Bayern Munich last season reportedly sparked by a row with Guardiola.
The club have also completed the signing of highly-rated Croatia international defender Josko Gvardiol from RB Leipzig.
As well as handling the transfer merry-go-round, the obsessive Guardiola surely spent his summer holidays fretting over City’s ability to avoid a treble hangover.
Jack Grealish’s wild celebrations revealed the sense of fulfilment and relief felt by Guardiola’s players at the climax of an incredible season.
But if there is concern about City’s ability to stay hungry, Guardiola must have been relieved to hear Ruben Dias’s recent rallying cry.
“Even though this team has won a lot in the past few seasons, we are still hungry and we are still here to win again and again,” defender Dias said.
“Actions speak louder than words. We can say what we want but all that matters is what we do when the games start.
“The mentality is there with everyone who belongs to the club.”
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