Arsenal will begin their title charge with a home game against a much-changed West Ham United team on Sunday afternoon.
Kick Off: 13:30 Sunday 9th August (BST)
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Last Season: Arsenal 3-0 West Ham United
Arsenal: Jack Wilshere has been ruled out for at least six weeks, whilst Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky remain unavailable in the short term due to knee injuries. Alexis Sanchez is unlikely to feature due to a lack of match fitness, but he could return as early as next week.
West Ham: Enner Valencia and Andy Carroll will both miss at least the first 6 weeks of the season for the Hammers, whilst Winston Reid, Joey O’Brien and Pedro Obiang are all doubts.
Petr Cech will make his Premier League debut with Arsenal on Sunday, after keeping a clean sheet in what was an accomplished performance against Chelsea last weekend.
Arsenal will hope to keep more of their defenders fit this season – last season we had to play the likes of Mathieu Debuchy and Nacho Monreal as makeshift centre backs just a few months into the season. Whilst our full backs are easily interchangeable, it is key that the partnership of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker is kept together for most of the season. When those two are at the back we look very solid. The main conundrum appears to be whether Mathieu Debuchy or Hector Bellerin will start at right back. Bellerin looks slight favourite due to his inclusion in last weekends eleven.
In midfield, Arsene Wenger has a couple of hard selection decisions to make, although Wilshere’s injury will have saved him another tough decision. With Alexis Sanchez unlikely to start, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will hope he has done enough last week with his goal to get into the starting eleven. If Olivier Giroud starts up front, Theo Walcott will hope to be included on the wing, but if the English duo are included it would mean one of Aaron Ramsey or Santi Cazorla miss out – both of whom have looked slick in pre-season.
The two who look certain to start are Mesut Ozil and Francis Coquelin. In attacking and defensive midfield respectively, both are essential inclusions in the starting eleven.
Upfront Wenger has another big decision to make. Walcott or Giroud? The Frenchman indicated that he’d play Giroud up front against teams who sit a little deeper, so I expect the taller striker to get the nod.
One to watch: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Cech; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Ramsey; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Cazorla; Giroud
Slaven Bilic played a second string side in the Europa League in order to save his main eleven for the Premier League opener – it backfired with the Hammers being knocked out of the competition.
Loanee Carl Jenkinson is not eligble to face Arsenal due to the terms in the loan contract, so if fit, O’Brien looks set to fill in. If Winston Reid is not passed fit, James Tomkins is expected to partner Angelo Ogbonna in defence.
Manuel Lanzini may be the only player to play in West Ham’s Europa League team and Sunday’s team. Dimitri Payet will start at number 10 and will look to impress on his Premier League debut.
Diafra Sakho and Mauro Zarate look the likely attacking duo for Bilic and whilst neither seem particularly dangerous to us at first look, a two-man attack is always a dangerous
One to watch: Dimitri Payet
West Ham XI (4-3-1-2): Adrian; O’Brien, Tomkins, Ogbonna, Creswell; Noble, Lanzini, Kouyate; Payet; Sakho, Zarate