Competition: Premier League – Arsenal vs. West Ham United
Venue: Emirates Stadium – Sunday, August 9 – 13:30 BST (08:30 ET)
Match Odds: Arsenal 2/7 – Draw 9/2 – West Ham United 9/1
The general consensus now suggests that the Gunners are genuine title contenders and with the addition of veteran ‘keeper Petr Cech, they now have arguably the best defensive unit in the league.
There is no doubt that Arsene Wenger has an incredibly talented group of attackers at his disposal and now he has arguably the strongest squad since the ‘invincibles’ side of 2004.
They will expect to start the new year with three points in front of their own fans against their London rivals here.
West Ham come into the new season with new coach Slaven Bilic replacing Sam Allardyce at the helm in what will be the Hammers’ final season at the Boleyn Ground.
West Ham will be hoping to match the early season form of last term which saw them in the top four at Christmas, but a trip to the Emirates presents a very stiff test on the opening weekend, especially off the back of their Europa League game on Thursday night.
Consistency is key for the Hammers this season as they lost pace in the latter half of the season and another collapse of that magnitude could see them lose their Premier League status if they are not careful.
The arrival of Dimitri Payet is an exciting one but he may not get the space he needs to create chances at Arsenal this weekend.
Arsenal will be without Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky for the opening day. Jack Wilshere is out for around 6-8 weeks but could return sooner. Alexis Sanchez is unlikely to start as he is not yet fit enough. Hector Bellerin is set to get the nod at right-back.
West Ham United are without Andy Carroll and Enner Valencia, who are both out with knee injuries. Winston Reid, Joey O’Brien and Pedro Obiang are doubts but should be fit to start. Carl Jenkinson won’t feature against his parent club.
Arsenal’s preseason form: W/W/W/W/W
West Ham United’s preseason form: W/W/D/W/W/L/D/W/D/L/L
Key Stat: Arsenal have only lost two of their last 37 home matches in the Premier League.
Key Player: Petr Cech – The big Czech stopper was sensational in the Community Shield and his experience will be key to their title challenge this term.
Arsenal 3-0 West Ham United – It’s easy to back Arsenal as they are in superb form and look very hard to beat. Expect them to be too strong for West Ham, who were knocked out of the Europa League on Thursday night.