Arsenal v West Ham
Premier League. Saturday August 25. Kick-off 3pm.
ARSENAL fans were cursing the fixture list when it was released in July. With a season opener against reigning champions Man City, followed by a trip to Stamford Bridge, even the most enthusiastic Gunner supporter was expecting nothing more than two defeats and that is exactly what happened.
In some ways, two such difficult opening fixtures could be a blessing in disguise. With the sweeping changes that have taken place at the Emirates since Arsene Wenger’s departure, had Arsenal got off to the perfect start against two lesser opponents then expectation and optimism around the club would have been sky high.
Fans would have been unfairly talking about winning the league! But these two defeats keep the club grounded and put Unai Emery’s rebuilding project into perspective. It could well be a very tough couple of years for the new Arsenal boss to build his squad and get this team well drilled and playing the way he wants.
So, bring on the Hammers and Arsenal's first opportunity to secure some points on the board. West Ham have had a torrid start to the season with an opening day thumping at Anfield and then a very disappointing home defeat against Bournemouth, scoring only one goal but conceding six in the process.
Emery is still struggling to pick his best starting 11. The one positive that can be taken from the season has been the performances of youngster Matteo Guendouzi.
He has made an impressive start to his Arsenal career and has played the full 90 mins in both games, while seasoned professionals Xhaka, Ramsey & Torreira have all been substituted around him. I expect him to start in midfield again on Saturday and I have a feeling Emery will persevere with Xhaka and give Torreira his first start of the season.
Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan & Ozil have started in both games and I expect the same against West Ham. This team has goals in it, Arsenal should have scored 4 or 5 in the first half against Chelsea and Emery has to stick with this combination for now.
The most worrying part of the Arsenal set-up at the moment is the defence. Emery has the team playing with a very high backline and neither Sokratis nor Mustafi look comfortable in this system. I fully expect goals to be conceded until the players are used to this set-up.