London – Olivier Giroud claims Arsenal's convincing Community Shield victory over Manchester City proves they are ready to end their long wait to win the Premier League.
Arsene Wenger's side wrapped up their pre-season preparations in style as goals from Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and a stunning effort from Giroud clinched a 3-0 victory over the reigning champions at Wembley on Sunday.
Just four months after finally winning their first silverware for nine years in a dramatic FA Cup final triumph against Hull, the Gunners look a far more confident and vibrant outfit than the brittle group who so often cracked under pressure in the past.
Bolstered by solid debuts from Alexis Sanchez, Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers, Wenger's team out-played City from start to finish and France striker Giroud believes his side go into the new campaign as genuine contenders to win the title for the first time since the club's famous 'Invincibles' in 2004.
“That is the target. Last year we did well until March and then we had a bad run after,” Giroud said.
“We have a good quality squad and that is why I think we will be stronger this year.
“We wanted to come back and be stronger than last year. When our German World Cup players join us we will be stronger and hopefully stay that way until May.”
Giroud's brilliant long-range strike was perfectly timed following the £30 million ($50 million) arrival of Sanchez from Barcelona.
Wenger lost patience with Giroud's slump in form following some lurid reports about his private life last season and sometimes preferred raw rookie Yaya Sanogo as his main striker late in the campaign.
With Wenger highlighting Sanchez's ability to play up front as well as on the flanks, Giroud could face a battle for his place, but he says there is room for both players in the starting line-up.
“I tried to give my best in the second half. I was not really ready in the Emirates Cup last week, but I knew I would play the second half today,” Giroud said.
“I was feeling ok in the game and will be ready for the Crystal Palace match next week. It's always great for a striker to score. I was man of the match and I will take it with pleasure.
“I have a good understanding with Alexis. It is always easy to play with this kind of player.
“He will need some more games to adapt his game to the Premier League but he is a fantastic player so I think he will do a great season.
“He has different qualities than me. He can bring his pace and technique and he is a great finisher.”
Gunners goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is equally confident Arsenal have enough quality to trade blows with City, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool in the title fight.
The Pole says Arsenal's current squad is the strongest in his eight years at the club.
“I think so, and hopefully it will be the most successful one. Looking at it on paper it probably is the strongest we've had,” he said.
“With the expection of Thomas (Vermaelen), we've not lost any big players and, even if somebody did leave, the manager has got good players to replace them. We are looking stronger and stronger and I'm happy with that.”
Meanwhile, City defender Dedryck Boyata insists the absence of key players Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta cannot be used as an excuse for their tame defeat.
“We were missing players but we have a big enough squad that we should be able to deal with that and play our game,” said Boyata, who made a rare start in place of rested captain Kompany.
“We don't want to talk about the missing players.
“It was a hard game and everyone is really down because we wanted to leave here with a win.” – Sapa-AFP