09 August 2015

Finally, a match of record! Can Arsenal carry the preseason momentum into the Prem?

Finally, at long last, after nearly 8o days of waiting, the Prem season is nearly upon us. Having already won a treble of sorts—we might forgive ourselves a bit of overconfidence going up against West Ham, a squad that we hammered to 1-2 and 3-0 a season ago. Then again, the Hammers have already played six matches of record already. Their quest for Europa League competition may have died in Romania on Thursday, but they’re already battle-tested and revamped for the Prem season.


Gone is Big Sam “don’t call me the Walrus” Allardyce, replaced by Slaven Bilić, the Croatian who previously managed Beşiktaş, among others. Some may remember Bilić from his days as manager of the Croatian national team, the one that beat England 3-2 at Wembley to qualify for Euro 2008, dumping England in the process. He’s a manager quite capable of mastering an upset or two. Joining Bilić are seven new players, including Dimitri Payet, who adds a very dangerous creativity to West Ham’s midfield.  

However, on a short turn-around from their disappointment on Thursday in Romania, it’s not unreasonable to expect a weary, dispirited squad. One of Bilić’s calling-cards is in how well he prepares for tough matches, but it’s hard to see how he could both rally his troops from defeat in Romania and prepare them for a trip the Emirates on such a short turnaround.

Meanwhile, we’ve quietly mustered up enough of a reputation to inspire more optimism than we’ve seen for a Prem season in quite a while. After the signing of Petr Čech, and with the growing cohesion, confidence and chemistry, in this squad, we’re openly talked up as legitimate contenders for the Prem—not just challengers to Chelsea’s hegemony, but actual contenders, as in, we could very well win the Prem.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. West Ham eventually sank to mid-table mediocrity but started last season flying high, and they’re likely to be difficult to break down and more dangerous on attack. Our man Jenkinson, on loan to West Ham, can’t compete, which denies him a chance to chip in an own-goal or two, but we should still have more than enough firepower to drop the Hammers and get our campaign off on the right foot. After all, if we’re serious about living up to the hype that’s already been heaped on this squad of ours, we can hardly afford to shoot ourselves in the foot on the very first day, now, can we?

LAST 3
Arsenal 3-0 West Ham (14.03.2015)
West Ham 1-2 Arsenal (28.12.2014)
Arsenal 3-1 West Ham (15.04.2014)

FACTFILE
The two clubs first met on 1 August 1923, a 1-0 win to West Ham.
West Ham have not scored a goal in their last four away matches in the Prem.
West Ham have not won an away match in the Prem in twelve tries.

INJURIES
Wilshere (ankle), Rosický (knee), and Welbeck (knee) have all been ruled out; Alexis is “a bit early maybe.”

POSSIBLE STARTING XI
Čech; Monreal, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Debuchy; Coquelin, Cazorla; Alexis, Özil, Walcott; Giroud.

Despite (or because of) West Ham’s early season intensity, combined with Arsenal’s confidence-inspiring preseason, look for Arsenal to dominate the proceedings.

PREDICTION Arsenal 3-0 West Ham