Wenger: Good start is imperative
There are expected to be one or two new faces, and perhaps not some of the old ones, when the Gunners squad reassemble at London Colney on July 6. A club of Arsenal's stature and global brand would always find welcome hosts for what could be a lucrative foreign trip in the build-up to the 2009-10 campaign, which starts on August 15 and will roll on to the World Cup in South Africa. Wenger, though, prefers to focus on finalising the team's preparations at a secluded Austrian training camp before returning home to the Emirates Cup on August 1/2, set to also feature Scottish champions Rangers. However, there is also the small matter of a Champions League qualifier to safely negotiate. Next season that comes after the opening round of domestic fixtures and will see Arsenal among one of the seeded 'best-placed' teams, but who could yet face Shakhtar Donetsk, Sporting Lisbon, Celtic or even Steve McClaren's FC Twente, whom they beat en route to the group stages last year. Wenger accepts Arsenal cannot afford another slow start, when five defeats from the first 14 games all but ended their title bid before it had a chance to get going. "We will have the same structure as normal to pre-season this summer," insisted the Arsenal manager, whose start their preparations for the new campaign on July 18 with the now traditional trip to Barnet. "We will have progressive training and the training camp in Austria and then the Emirates Cup as usual, then we want to be ready to start the new season." Wenger added: "The league title is a marathon, in which we had a bad start, and when you are running against people who are quick, it is difficult to catch them up. "That is what we want to change next season - we want to start strongly, it is very important." Despite their failure to deliver a big performance in key games - notably the semi-finals of both the FA Cup and Champions League - Wenger feels the way his young squad performed from late November until the league defeat by Chelsea on May 10 shows great strength of character. "The first part of the season was terrible for us - we lost five of our first 14 league games, after that, we went on a long, long unbeaten run," he said. "We only lost one game against the rest of the top four and that defeat was under special circumstances. "So I believe overall that the team have moved forward, improved and are ready to challenge next year." Key to Arsenal's progress in 2010 will be not only keeping the likes of captain Cesc Fabregas but also adding to a side which came up short when it mattered. Fulham centre-half Brede Hangeland, Ajax's £7.5million-rated Belgium international Thomas Vermaelen are both reported defensive targets, while Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso and England international Gareth Barry, of Aston Villa, have been linked with a summer move to Emirates. Should Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor be cashed in on - with reports of a £20million offers from AC Milan, Manchester City and Chelsea all in the pipeline, then Wenger could well turn to Blackburn forward Roque Santa Cruz, who will almost certainly leave Ewood Park. Fabregas said: "It is very important for this club to start winning trophies again, to be back at our best, so we are annoyed we could not do it this season. "We definitely need to improve in some areas and do better as a squad. I believe that, next season, we will be stronger. "We are really disappointed because we did not achieve what we wanted to this year, so it is up to us to come back stronger next time. I am confident we can do that." Fabregas added: "We will see what happens in the summer, but the boss knows what is missing and I am sure he will do something about it."
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