Gunners are Premier League contenders, says Arsenal legend

Arsenal legend Don Howe is adamant the Gunners are in a better placed position than they were 12 months ago to finally bring the title back to north London. The club s last Premier League triumph was back in 2004 – the longest spell

Arsenal legend Don Howe is adamant the Gunners are in a better placed position than they were 12 months ago to finally bring the title back to north London.

The club's last Premier League triumph was back in 2004 - the longest spell without the trophy during Arsene Wenger's tenure - but his players are in bullish mood with defender Thomas Vermaelen last week vowing to win the league in his second full season.

"It's our ambition to win it and we will do it this year," said the Belgium international defender, who was a revelation in his debut campaign at Emirates Stadium.

"My dream is the same as every year - to win the league and do well in Europe and I'm sure that's what we're going to do."

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Howe - a former player, coach and manager of the club - also believes those who have written off Arsenal's title hopes before Sunday's big kick off at Anfield do so at their peril.

And he believes the current squad is fully focussed on justifying Wenger's policy of promoting youth and thrifty spending.

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"To be successful, and by that I mean finish top of the league next May, you need a big, strong squad that has quality - I have looked at things and the way I see it Arsene has assembled a squad that is better and stronger than this time last year," 76-year-old Howe tells Ham&High Sport ahead of Arsenal's opening-day clash with Roy Hodgson's Liverpool.

"A successful squad of players needs to be able to withstand injuries, maybe three or four injuries at a time, and I think we have a squad that could absorb that. What will happen over the next nine months, who knows?

"But I do know Manchester United and Chelsea have both had squads in the past that have been able to withstand a lot of pressure. They have players who they can bring on with 25 minutes to go and change a game.

"We saw that in glimpses last season with us, when previously you may have looked at our bench and wondered where that spark is - I hope and believe that we will have more threat from the bench this season, because it is key."

Howe, who still occasionally scouts for a club he first joined as a player back in 1962, is excited at the prospect of the two summer signings so far - Marouane Chamakh and Laurent Koscielny.

"Steve Rowley, the chief scout, will, I'm sure, have looked at both players very closely. Chamakh looks a big, strong, quick boy up front while Koscielny is highly rated and looks like he could be a good buy.

"But, both of these lads have to settle very quickly at the club and in the Premier League, just like Vermaelen did last season. These two players could be very important for different reasons and we need them working in tandem with other players as soon as possible."

In addition, a familiar face still remains THE man who can push Arsenal to glory, according to Howe. He is delighted that skipper Cesc Fabregas will remain with the club. What did he make of the summer shenanigans with Barca openly courting a player they claim has their "DNA"?

"He is a great man and a great captain and Arsene Wenger has clearly convinced him he can stay and be successful here, at least for another season and hopefully longer.

"If he had left we'd have missed the lad. He will continue to improve and it is nice to know it will be in red and white.

"The club has nurtured him and he knows that. I felt for the kid a bit, I mean he did not really seem to know what to do and where to go - it's been hard for him.

"But he has sat down with the manager and he knows that he may have been good for us, but Arsenal Football Club has been very good for him too.

"The Arsenal is a top class club and organisation that strives to be the best on and off the pitch. We can win the league this season also long as we improve - we can do it."

Wenger also hopes his side can go that step - or rather two steps - further.

Speaking after last week's crazy 6-5 victory at Legia Warsaw, which wrapped up his side's unbeaten pre-season campaign, he said: "I believe we have a good chance (to win the Premier League).

"The most important thing is that we have that belief. We finished third last season, so we have two stairs to climb and I am confident that we can do it.

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