Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta has rubbished suggestions that his side starts the Premier League campaign this weekend in a weaker position than major rivals such as Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea.
The Gunners looked far from title contenders last season but hammered European champions Blues 5-3 at Stamford Bridge and Arteta scored a sublime goal when they defeated Premier League winners City 1-0 at the Emirates.
A strong second half of the 2011-12 season saw the Gunners finish in a respectable third place and yet, they are deemed by many to be outsiders in the 2012-13 title race.
Arteta, though, is in bullish mood ahead of Saturday’s season opener against Sunderland, insisting that the Gunners will be as dangerous as anyone else as long as they start strong.
“We have to start better than last season, that’s for sure. We also have to try to keep players fit for longer than we did last season and not concede as many goals,” Arteta asserted in an interview with Arsenal Player.
The 30-year old added: “This is all possible and from day one, we have to think that we are as good as the other teams. I don’t see other teams as better than us, I know my team-mates well.
“If everybody is fit, comfortable and ready for a fight, then I think we can handle it.”
Arsenal have seen skipper Robin van Persie make an unlikely move to bitter rivals United this summer but despite his departure as well as persistent rumors surrounding the uncertain future of star midfielder Alex Song, Arteta believes that the squad is strong enough to compete for silverware.
In addition to this summer’s acquisitions of Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud, and Santi Cazorla, manager Arsene Wenger was active towards the end of the August transfer window last year, bringing in the likes of Per Mertesacker, Park Chu-Young, Andre Santos, and Arteta to the club.
From that point onwards, Arteta has observed enough to be convinced that the club harbors title ambitions despite some critics feeling otherwise.
“It was a crazy day when I joined the club. The week before I signed there was a lot going on with the big defeat against Manchester United at Old Trafford and suddenly a few players joined on the same day.
“We tried to rebuild very quickly and we did well to get it back but this year we can move forward and everybody has that ambition. I can feel a different atmosphere, the club is stable and the fans are excited. That is what we need,” the Spaniard concluded.