Theo Walcott is confident Arsenal will put their title heartbreak behind them this season to defy their critics.
The Gunners produced a fine display of character to record their second Wembley win over Chelsea this year in Sunday’s Community Shield. It followed their shock victory over the Premier League champion Blues in the FA Cup final three months ago.
Arsene Wenger’s men — strengthened by club-record buy striker Alexandre Lacazette and powerful left-back Sead Kolasinac — kick off their campaign at home to deposed champions Leicester on Friday night.
Winger Walcott revealed morale is high as the north Londoners bid to end 14 years of title-race hurt.
He said: “We’ll let the people talk on the outside.
“We know what we want to do this season. We know how important it is. Everyone’s up for the challenge – you know we do like a good challenge. It’s going to be different for us this year but it’s about the way we react, it’s as simple as that.
“We can’t really dwell on the past any more, we need to focus on our strengths.”
Wenger has continued to replicate the 3-4-3 tactics, used successfully by Chelsea in their match to the title, that earned Arsenal eight wins from their final 10 games last season.
“We’re starting to learn this new system and obviously had a good run of games in the last 10 games of last season.” added Walcott. “We’re still slowly learning it and it’s working for now, and we’ll see if it continues to.
The Gunners’ backline is set to be given a tough examination on Friday with Jamie Vardy and new £25million signing Kelechi Iheanacho, if fit, ready to lead the Leicester attack.
Arsenal managed just two victories from their first five games last season.
The year before they won only three of their opening five and at the start of the 2014/15 season, the initial five matches brought a mere two victories.
This campaign, after facing the 2015-16 champion Foxes they also have to visit both Liverpool and Chelsea in their opening five fixtures.
Walcott, however, believes the electric atmosphere of a night game at the Emirates will make the perfect stage for the Gunners to start as they mean to go on.
He said: “Every season, we tend to start the league not so well, and being a Friday night I think a night game might be better for us.
“It’s a bit different. It’s new for us, the fans will be up for it obviously.
“The home support will be so key this season. You’ve got to be patient sometimes with this formation we’re playing, you play a different style of football, that’s what we’re learning still and we’re getting better.
“I think we showed it against Chelsea.
“We managed to stop them playing the football they tend to do when they it out to the full-backs. We’d worked on that.
“It’s exciting and that’s what we want to do, we just want to play football.”