Jack Wilshere insists Arsenal are desperate to put another dispiriting pre-season behind them and finally end the club’s eight-year trophy drought.

Last season finished promisingly as Arsenal claimed fourth place on the final day ahead of rivals Tottenham.

But the Gunners remain without silverware since 2005 and boss Arsene Wenger’s failure to land any major signings has added to the growing sense of unease ahead of Saturday’s Premier League opener against Aston Villa.

The frustrating barren spell helps explain the discontent among the club’s supporters during periods when the team struggled last season and that will undoubtedly resurface if Wenger’s side again fail to challenge for major honours.

But England star Wilshere says there can be no more excuses for underachievement because Wenger’s squad have the talent and desire to restore the club to its’ former glory.

“We understand the fans’ frustration, because we care as well,” Wilshere said.

“Arsenal used to be a team that won everything, you know, trophies and titles. But now we haven’t won anything for eight years, so we know what we have to do.

“It’s time to start producing trophies and being closer to the top of the league at the end of the season.

“We don’t just want to be fighting for fourth place – we want to be up there with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United. We feel we’re good enough to be there.”

Wilshere has been eased into action during pre-season but should start against Villa after appearing for England against Scotland this week, although Theo Walcott is a more significant doubt after limping out of the Wembley clash.

Wenger needs every weapon at his disposal ahead of a testing opening week, with the first leg of their Champions League qualifier against Fenerbahce following four days after the Villa clash.

They will start the campaign without the big-name signing Wenger has been pursuing after losing out to Napoli in the race to sign Gonzalo Higuain and failing to persuade Liverpool to part with Luis Suarez.

Yaya Sanogo remains Wenger’s sole acquisition during another frustrating close-season, but he is adamant a marquee signing is still possible before the transfer window closes on September 2

“We are active,” Wenger said. “We are in a situation like Manchester United, like Chelsea, where everybody expects signings and at the moment not a lot has happened.

“There are 18 days to go, so that is a long time in the transfer market and we will be active.

“I cannot certify what the number (of players coming in will be) but we will be active until the end, that is for sure.”

Meanwhile, Villa manager Paul Lambert has defended his treatment of Darren Bent as the striker prepares to join Fulham on a season-long loan after undergoing a medical with the Cottagers on Thursday.

The £24 million (US$37.5m, 28.1m euro) signing from Sunderland quickly found himself in Christian Benteke’s shadow at Villa last term, however the Scot insists his decision was purely for footballing reasons.

“It’s well documented he’s down there having a medical,” said Lambert.

“There has been not one crossed word between us. I don’t know where people have got that from.

“I brought in Benteke. If anyone can tell me it was the wrong decision (to pick him ahead of Bent) then they’d take you away in a white van!

“It’s just the way I play and the way I look for people to play under me.

“That’s football. All over the world that’s the game. It’s nothing to do with faces, I just had to make decisions about who I played.

“The big man (Benteke) came in and he’s been exceptional.” AFP


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