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Wenger tells Gunners to step it up

Manager Arsene Wenger has challenged his Arsenal team to raise their game against direct title rivals and deliver a first Barclays Premier League crown for a decade.

The Gunners host managerless Crystal Palace on Saturday, and are out to make a flying start to the new campaign, with morale high following last weekend's 3-0 win over a makeshift Manchester City in the Community Shield at Wembley.

After ending their nine-year barren run with an FA Cup final victory in May, Wenger is confident Arsenal - boosted by the £30million summer signing of Chile forward Alexis Sanchez - have the platform on which to mount a sustained assault on the championship.

"I believe we have a chance because we were a long time top of the league last year," Wenger said.

"It is difficult to know how much better the other teams will be. We have some challenges we have of course to face that we did not face well last year, and that means we have to take more points from the top teams.

"That will be our real challenge this year and also to keep the consistency against the teams who do not fight for the championship.

"We finished fourth last year and made 79 points. Man City won it with 86, so it was very tight in the top four, that is one or two games.

"If you win against them, they have three points less and you have three points more, that means it is down to one game.

"So it is very difficult to predict. The only thing you know is that it will be tough."

Wenger added: "With the confidence (of winning a trophy) there is a little bit of weight off the shoulders that is for sure, but we want to show that and transform that into efficiency in our performances."

Arsenal are, of course, not the only side to have brought in more firepower this season.

Wenger feels "six or seven teams" could offer a genuine challenge.

He said: "The favourites you have again Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool, Man United and us. Then you have Everton, they were very dangerous last year as well and could be candidates. How well will Tottenham respond?

"There is no hierarchy in the teams I give you, there is no priority - they are just the obvious candidates."

Wenger remains pleased with the transfer business done so far, much of it early with France international Mathieu Debuchy, promising young defender Calum Chambers and Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina all now on board.

Arsenal have been linked with Real Madrid's German midfielder Sami Khedira, whose wage demands are thought to be a stumbling block, as well as Greece defender Kostas Manolas.

"Number wise we are maybe a little short in some areas of the game, but the depth of the squad is very good," said Wenger, who would like Joel Campbell and Serge Gnabry to remain at the club rather than go out on loan.

"We are not destabilised and I feel it's a strong reinforcement of our squad. Will I still do something? I don't rule it out."

The Arsenal boss added: "For me a big signing is a good player and for you (the media) it is linked with the amount of money you spend.

"Sometimes you have to do both together, but sometimes you can find a big player without having what you call a big player."

German World Cup winners Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski are to be given more time to prepare for the season following their extended summer break, and so are not expected to be in consideration for next week's Champions League play-off first leg against Besiktas.

Wenger is confident Arsenal can get the better of the Palace, who will have Keith Millen in charge following Tony Pulis' shock departure, before turning attentions to the trip to Istanbul.

He said: "We play against Crystal Palace, who are an uncomfortable team for everybody, but I believe the way we can put pace and dynamism in our game can help us prevail to have a good start."

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