LONDON, August 15- Arsene Wenger expects Arsenal to produce a strong response after their dismal opening day defeat when they return to action at Crystal Palace on Sunday.
Wenger’s side make the short trip to south London with the embarrassment of last weekend’s shock 2-0 home loss against West Ham still fresh in their minds.
Heading into the new Premier League campaign, Wenger’s squad were widely tipped as genuine title contenders after winning the FA Cup and defeating champions Chelsea in the Community Shield.
But a miserable debut from Petr Cech, the veteran goalkeeper signed from Chelsea and hailed as the last piece in Wenger’s title jigsaw, and lacklustre displays from the majority of his new team-mates, allowed West Ham to shatter the optimism surrounding the Gunners.
Faced with a tricky clash against a Palace side who started with a 3-1 win at Norwich and have caused numerous problems for the top teams at Selhurst Park in recent years, Wenger acknowledges Arsenal could suffer another blow to their title bid unless they raise their performance levels significantly.
Yet the Arsenal manager is sure that belief among his squad remains intact and he has backed them to rebound with a win that will set the tone for the rest of the season.
“Every defeat makes you a bit smaller, but it is our job to take it in perspective with 37 games to go,” Wenger said.
“We have the history behind us from the second half of the campaign last year which shows we have the quality to always respond and to be consistent, so let’s focus on our quality.
“Defeat is part of the season and of course that was not planned, but we know it is how we respond to these kind of things that will make our season.”
– Fragile –
Following Sunday’s loss, Wenger found himself in the familiar position of having to defend his football philosophy as angry fans questioned the way their physically fragile players were bullied by West Ham.
But the Frenchman, whose club last won the title in 2004, said: “We have a big following and disappointed people are emotional, that is understandable and it hurts us as well to disappoint people who have a high level of expectation.
“We have analysed what happened to us, but we don’t have to go overboard with what happened. It is a defeat and it hurts, but that shouldn’t take our belief in our potential away.
“A strong season is down to the way that you respond to disappointment so we will focus on our next game. We will prepare for that.”
Wenger is boosted by the return of right-back Hector Bellerin after a thigh strain ruled him out last weekend.
Chile forward Alexis Sanchez could start having stepped up his training this week after an extended break following the Copa America.
Meanwhile, Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew believes Yohan Cabaye would have slotted straight into Arsenal’s starting line-up if the France midfielder had signed for the Gunners.
Cabaye made a surprise move to Palace from Paris Saint Germain in July but was close to joining Arsenal two years ago when he was at Newcastle.
The playmaker has already made a good impression at Palace, scoring in last week’s win at Norwich, and Pardew says he could easily hold his own in a squad of Arsenal’s quality.
“Two years ago Yohan wouldn’t play (for Newcastle) at Manchester City because he thought he was going to Arsenal so it’s quite ironic he’s now here with us at Crystal Palace,” Pardew said.
“He’s a fantastic player, we’re honoured to have him and he’s definitely the level of Arsenal players.
“I don’t think Arsene Wenger or anyone at Arsenal would disagree with that.
“We have a player who could definitely play in their team and that’s a nice feeling for us.”