LONDON • Just a game into the new English Premier League season, and already Arsenal are talking about their next match as a season-defining one.
Manager Arsene Wenger believes the Gunners need to respond with quality and belief when they take on Crystal Palace tomorrow, following their painful season-opening 0-2 defeat by West Ham.
The Hammers capitalised on errors by goalkeeper Petr Cech to secure the shock win.
But Wenger backed Cech to bounce back after the Czech international - hailed by supporters as the missing piece in Arsenal's quest for a first EPL title since 2004 - struggled on his debut following his arrival from champions Chelsea.
"He analyses very well. He's a bright man and he knows that it is down to how well he responds," the Frenchman said.
GOALIE HAS THE RIGHT MINDSET
He analyses very well. He's a bright man and he knows that it is down to how well he responds.''
ARSENE WENGER, the Arsenal manager, keeping faith with new goalkeeper Petr Cech
"A defeat is never a blessing. It always hurts, but that should not take our belief away. We have shown that we have the quality to respond, so let's focus on that. It's how you respond that makes your season."
The Gunners travel to Crystal Palace on Sunday with Chile international Alexis Sanchez, who returned late to training after the Copa America, back in contention. However, striker Danny Welbeck is at least three weeks away from a return following a knee injury.
Arsenal last lost at Palace in a top-flight match in 1979, but the visitors have shown steady progress since returning to the EPL in 2013, and earned praise from Wenger for their work in the transfer window.
Former Arsenal transfer target Yohan Cabaye has joined from Paris St Germain for a club-record fee of £10 million (S$21 million), winger Bakary Sako moved from Wolverhampton Wanderers on a free transfer, while Patrick Bamford and Connor Wickham have added firepower up front.
Palace manager Alan Pardew, however, was counselling caution, saying that he was a little disappointed by Palace's performance at Norwich despite the 3-1 win last week, and would have to match Arsenal man for man.
"It's difficult to stop them," he said of the way Arsenal like to attack. "But we need to play our game. (Wenger) has enough experience to use that negative from last weekend as a positive this weekend."
Wenger said he is still looking to add to his squad, but will not rush into the market. "When you lose a game you always get those demands," he said.
"If we find somebody, anywhere who will strengthen our squad, we will do it. But it is not easy, it is not supermarket stuff where you go in and say, 'I would like this please'."
Gunners midfielder Francis Coquelin believes the West Ham defeat served as a useful wake-up call for him and his team-mates.
The 24-year-old told the club website: "It's been a wake-up call for everyone. Considering the recent results we had before that, going really well in pre-season, it's disappointing and it was not an Arsenal performance.
"In bad things, good things can come out too. It's good that it happened in the first game, so that now we can pull ourselves together with 37 games left."
CRYSTAL PALACE v ARSENAL
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