West Ham United-Arsenal Preview
Arsenal are in a buoyant mood as they open their new Premier League campaign against fellow London side West Ham United at the Emirates on Sunday.
The Gunners beat fierce crosstown rivals Chelsea 1-0 in the Community Shield at Wembley last weekend with manager Arsene Wenger celebrating his first win over archenemy Blues boss Jose Mourinho in 14 attempts. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hit a 24th-minute winner.
Wenger is targeting more success as he prepares for his 20th season as Arsenal boss.
"Preparation breeds confidence so we can go into the season in a good shape," Wenger told his club's website. "Now it's about points, about performance, about efficiency, about togetherness and about heart.
"I still feel the same excitement, the same uncertainty, because football is not predictable so you always have the level of excitement and uncertainty. The pressure for me today is even bigger because you know what is expected - the expectation level is very high at Arsenal and you have that weight of wanting to do well and start well. That is why we are all under a huge desire to perform from the start."
Wenger will be looking to improve Arsenal's third-place finish last season when they ended the campaign 12 points adrift of champions Chelsea.
West Ham are off to a disappointing start under new manager Slaven Bilic. The Hammers were knocked out of the Europa League in the third qualifying round following a 2-1 defeat at Romanian side Astra Giurgiu in midweek to lose 4-3 on aggregate.
Bilic, a former Hammers defender, was bitterly disappointed by his side's early exit, but he remains bullish about the new season.
"Obviously we are disappointed to have gone out," Bilic told his club's website. "We had some youngsters in the team but mostly they were players we will count on.
"It is a good experience for a few of the youngsters but some of the guys who played tonight showed us they are going to be very useful. We have a big season ahead of us which starts on Sunday and we are going to be good in the Premier League. I am very confident about that."
The Hammers had to settle for 12th place last season despite being in the top four at Christmas. Sam Allardyce was told his contract as West Ham boss would not be renewed and was subsequently replace by the 46-year-old Bilic.
Czech Republic goalkeeper Petr Cech is set to make his league debut for Arsenal following his summer transfer from Chelsea. However, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Danny Welbeck are ruled out with injuries. England midfielder Wilshere will be sidelined at least six weeks after suffering a hairline fracture to his right ankle in training.
West Ham striker Enner Valencia has been ruled out for up to 12 weeks with a damaged right fibula, but Pedro Obiang, Winston Reid and Matt Jarvis all returned to training this week and could feature at some stage at the Emirates. Striker Andy Carroll could return to action within two to three weeks after undergoing knee surgery in February.
Hammers loanee Carl Jenkinson is ineligible to face his parent club Arsenal.
Arsenal completed the league double over West Ham last season, winning 2-1 at Upton Park in December and 3-0 at the Emirates in March. Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini netted in the home win for Arsenal, while Santi Cazorla and Danny Welbeck scored the goals at Upton Park. Cheikhou Kouyate pulled one back in that game for the Hammers shortly after half time.
The Gunners have won 10 straight over West Ham in all competitions dating back to October 2009 and are 12-2-0 in league play versus the Hammers since a 1-0 home loss in April 2007.
Arsenal have dominated the Premier League head-to-head with the Hammers, winning 25 of 38 meetings, drawing seven and losing just six. The Gunners have outscored West Ham 67-24 in those 38 games.