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 By Kevin Palmer

Arsene Wenger predicts tight title race

LONDON -- Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has said he believes the new Premier League season could be the most competitive in recent years, with six teams battling for the title.

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Wenger predicted that Manchester United -- who faded to a seventh-placed finish last season after winning the title in the previous campaign -- would be back in contention this time.

"When you look at the Premier League last year, it came down to one or two games won. I think there were four teams in the race last year, and there could be five or six this season," he said.

"It could be more competitive. Manchester United will certainly come back into it -- so if you have six teams to fight for the championship, that would mean every other game will be of a huge importance.

"We could drop more points against the top teams, which means there could be even more importance not to drop points against the teams who don't compete for the championship."

Wenger also addressed comments made by Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov, who suggested that last season's FA Cup win could signal the start of a new era of success.

He said: "The new era is that we have more money available to buy today than we had five years ago. We were never far away from the top of the league.

"The difference now is we can compete better today to buy the top player who is on the market. Today we are in a more comfortable situation but, let's be honest, there are still more people out there who have more financial potential."

Wenger has voiced concerns over Manchester City's move to sign Frank Lampard on loan from affiliated club New York City FC until January, fearing it could side-step financial fair-play regulations.

"I don't need to describe Frank Lampard to you -- he is quality," he added. "It was just a surprise that he went to Man City -- because he went to New York, in fact.

"The shortest way to New York is not to go to Manchester first. If you look at the map, there is a shorter way."

The Arsenal boss confirmed that winger Theo Walcott is expected to return to action at the end of this month, as he continues his recovery from a cruciate knee ligament injury.

The Gunners begin the new campaign against league champions Manchester City in the Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday.


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