Arsenal can get their Premier League campaign off to a strong start with victory when they host fellow Londoners West Ham at the Emirates on Sunday (13:30 BST, live on Sky Sports).
Arsenal secured their 16th consecutive season of Champions League football by finishing third last season. They are being touted as one of the favourites to challenge for this season’s title despite finishing a full 14 points shy of winners Chelsea last time around.
Arsene Wenger’s side defeated the reigning champions 1-0 in the Community Shield at Wembley last weekend, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first-half goal maintaining their 100% record in pre-season friendlies. That result, allied to previous victories over Everton, Lyon and Wolfsburg, suggested that the Gunners are in good shape for the season ahead.
There has not been a great deal of transfer activity at the Emirates this summer, although the purchase of Petr Cech from Chelsea has provided the club with the experienced, world-class goalkeeper that they have lacked in recent years. Abou Diaby and Lukas Podolski have moved on but it is otherwise a settled squad that will confront the new season.
Arsenal’s players missed the second highest number of days through injury (behind Newcastle) in the Premier League last season, and the key to a strong season could rest in keeping their most important players fit for a greater portion of the campaign. If they can, a more sustained title challenge is a distinct possibility.
Wenger does, though, already have a few injury concerns to contend with prior to the opening weekend, with Danny Welbeck (knee), Jack Wilshere (ankle) and Tomas Rosicky (knee) all ruled out of this match. Alexis Sanchez is not yet at the same fitness level as his team-mates following his later return to duty and is therefore unlikely to start.
West Ham are already a month into their campaign, having been involved in the early qualifying rounds of the Europa League. They finished 12th in the Premier League last season but are likely to have aspirations of making the top 10 this time around.
Best Arsenal vs West Ham Betting Odds
3/10 Arsenal (Coral, BetVictor, Betfred, William Hill, Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook)
5/1 Draw (Bet365, Betfred, Betfair Sportsbook)
11/1 West Ham (Bet365, BetVictor, Betfred, Ladbrokes, Unibet, Betfair Sportsbook)
Manager Slaven Bilic (pictured) sent out an under-strength team for the second leg of his side’s third qualifying round tie away to Astra of Romania on Thursday and was punished with a 2-1 defeat that saw the Hammers exit the competition 3-4 on aggregate. It was a needlessly limp end to their European campaign and one that made it clear where the club’s priorities lie.
Bilic replaced the unpopular Sam Allardyce at the conclusion of last season and has received strong backing from the board in the signings of attacking midfielder Dmitri Payet from Marseille, centre-back Angelo Ogbonna from Juventus and central midfielder Pedro Obiang from Sampdoria. Carl Jenkinson and Manuel Lanzini have also come in on loan.
The former Hammers defender has had his fair share of ups and downs in his relatively short managerial career but arrives in East London on the back of leading Besiktas to consecutive third-place finishes in Turkey. His past sides have generally been both well-balanced and easy on the eye – a combination that he will hope to replicate in England.
Bilic will definitely be without the injured Andy Carroll (knee) and Enner Valencia (knee) for the short trip to the Emirates, while the terms of his loan agreement mean that Jenkinson will be also unavailable for selection against his parent club. Obiang, Joey O’Brien, Matt Jarvis and Winston Reid are all carrying knocks that could put their participation in doubt.
Arsenal vs West Ham Preview’s Betting Tips
Arsenal were comfortable 3-0 victors in last season’s equivalent fixture and have a superb record against the Hammers in recent years, having won each of the last 10 encounters between the sides, with seven of those victories achieved by a margin of two or more goals. West Ham’s last triumph against the Gunners came back in 2007 – 16 meetings ago.
There seems to be an optimistic atmosphere around Arsenal ahead of the new season, which is justified by the quality of the players at Wenger’s disposal when all of the squad are fit. While he does not have that luxury ahead of the opening weekend of the campaign, he will be confident that those who are available are capable of leading his side to three points.
West Ham sacrificed a run in Europe in order to put out a stronger side at the Emirates and must now justify that decision with a good performance on Sunday. Their hosts have, however, been very impressive during pre-season and can be expected to begin their campaign with a fairly comfortable victory. Here are our match preview’s betting tips:
- Back Arsenal to win to nil @ best odds of 42/41 with Unibet.
- Theo Walcott ended last season with a hat-trick against West Bromwich Albion and the opening goal in Arsenal’s FA Cup final success over Aston Villa. He has scored in three of his last four league appearances against West Ham and can be fancied to do so again on Sunday. Back Theo Walcott to score at anytime @ best of 11/10 with Bet365.