Arsenal hopeful ahead of new season

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Arsenal had a goalkeeping problem when David Seaman left for Manchester City, but they got over that by signing Borussia Dortmund's Jens Lehmann.

updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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With the new English Premiership season just days away, all the talk in the British press has been of the departure of David Beckham for Real Madrid. And of Roman Abramovich throwing his millions around at Chelsea. But what of Arsenal? No big name signings - no money for megastars - can they regain the title - or are they set to be left behind? The football season never ends in England. No sooner has the league and the various cup competitions run their course than the press go into overdrive. Who's in? Who's out? Who's for the title - who's for relegation? David Beckham's move from Manchester United and Chelsea's move for just about any superstar have dominated the sports pages. But at Arsenal, there's been little of any note to report on the transfer front which, in itself, is a big story. England international David Seaman left for Manchester City, so the club had a goalkeeping problem. Jens Lehmann has solved that, the 34-year-old joining for Borussia Dortmund for an estimated 1.5 million pounds. But that has been the 'Gunners' biggest signing of the close season. The other two new faces - 18-year-old defenders Philippe Senderos, a Swiss from Servette and Frenchman Gael Clichy from Cannes. So, this is the pretty much same squad that fell away at the end of last season to hand the Premiership to Manchester United. But if manager Arsene Wenger is despondent with a lack of team-building, he's not showing it. "It is not just that I put on a brave face. No, I believe we are strong enough to win the Championship. No, we are looking in the dressing-room, we are hungry enough to win the Championship and the rest is what is happening on the pitch. The newspapers is one thing - it is very important - but what is vital is what is happening on the pitch. And you write us off just because we didn't spend 50 or 60 million pounds - OK, I can understand that. But I believe that we are strong enough to be successful on the pitch, with the squad we have," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. While Chelsea have spent nearly 60 million pounds on Juan Sebastian Veron, Geremi, Damien Duff and a host of other stars, at least there won't be a problem with face recognition for 'Gunners' fans when it comes to spotting their players on the pitch. All the old Highbury favourites are back for another run-out in an attempt to wrest the title back from Manchester United - and make a significant impact on the Champions League. Sylvain Wiltord and Robert Pires are still here. As is Dennis Bergkamp, Ray Parlour and Sweden's Freddie Ljungberg. And the big two - star striker Thierry Henry and his fellow Frenchman, Patrick Vieira. With just a year remaining on his current contract, Vieira's future has been the biggest source of speculation at the club with Real Madrid and, naturally, Chelsea, linked with big money offers. But the midfielder says he's on the verge of re-signing, probably on Monday or Tuesday, confident that Arsenal will return to the top of English football. "Of course, that is why I hope that I will sign a new contract because I really believe the club and the players who are here at the moment are good enough to win the Premiership and can do well in the Champions League. Seeing so many teams buying some players, that is the way they are working but I don't think that buying so many players will make you win the league. I think you need more than individual quality in a team to make you win trophies," said Arsenal's Patrick Vieira. But if the money for new faces had been there, surely, in an ideal world, Wenger would have been looking for more solidity at the back and looking to strengthen his defence around Sol Campbell. Defensive frailty in the closing stages cost Arsenal the title last season. They were widely recognised as the best team in the league - now, they have to bounce back. "It is a great test for me. Because in my job, like in the job of the players, you are only as good as your last result. And, of course, it is a big test. But I must tell you something. I am not nervous at all, because I have a great belief in this team and I really feel that the team is hungry, together, more than ever. There is a great togetherness about the team because we are together and we know we can win. We know we can win together and no matter what people say," Wenger said. And when you see the look in the Arsenal manager's eyes, and take into account his shrewdness and resilience of character, money or no money, you have to give Wenger and his men a good chance of rescaling the heights of English football. (AP)