Hopes are high at Arsenal as they kick-off their attempts to win the league for the first time in 12 years by hosting London rivals West Ham United on Sunday.
After a superb second half to last season, ending with a second successive FA Cup triumph, Arsenal enter 2015-16 with great optimism. They have already overcome the hurdle of facing defending champions Chelsea in the Community Shield, defeating the Blues at Wembley as an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain goal rewarded a resolute performance.
The key for Arsene Wenger’s men is to produce the goods throughout the campaign, as last time around they were punished for a sluggish start. There have been few changes to the squad, but Petr Cech offers more than just a reassuring presence in goal, and they now look certain to at least push his former club much closer in the title race.
New West Ham boss Slaven Bilic played a weakened side in the Europa League on Thursday as he prioritised this fixture. He was made to pay, as Romanian club Astra Giurgiu came from behind to knock them out in the third qualifying round. Their season began at the end of June, but six unconvincing displays have raised some doubts.
With Stewart Downing having left and made way for the likes of Angelo Ogbonna and Dimitri Payet, the Hammers are hopeful of returning to top 10 after falling away dramatically last term. Here, it will be interesting to see if Bilic adopts a more adventurous style on the road against one of the top teams than his predecessor Sam Allardyce, but gaining a positive result appears a tough ask.
Alexis Sanchez will not feature for Arsenal having been given an extended break following the Copa America. Tomas Rosicky, Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere are all ruled out through injury.
The visitors are unable to call upon striking pair Andy Carroll and Enner Valencia, with right-back Carl Jenkinson also unavailable as he cannot he cannot face his parent club.
Last Meeting: Some scintillating football saw Arsenal register a convincing 3-0 win back in March. Olivier Giroud ended the first half frustration with a shot in off the post just before the interval, and two late goals added gloss to the score-line. Aaron Ramsey smashed home the second before Mathieu Flamini netted just seconds after coming on as a substitute.
Played for both – John Hartson – The Welsh striker joined Arsenal as a teenager in January 1995 and went on to score 14 goals in 54 Premier League outings. After falling out of favour he moved to the Hammers for a then club record fee of £3.2m, managing 24 league goals during his two-year stay.