Arsenal look certainties to extend their stranglehold over London rivals
I don’t know why, but Jack Wilshere always reminds me of a cheeky chappie with whom I shared my early school days.
He was fun to be around and could make bubble gum maintain its elasticity an impossibly long time. But there was always a slight element of danger in what he did and, on the first day of term, his chair was always empty.
Throughout the school year, he’d pick up more coughs and sniffles than anyone else and apparently had an endless supply of sick notes. Why is it I imagine Wilshere and England team-mate Danny Welbeck sat beside a pond somewhere, collecting frogs in a jam jar, while the rest of the Arsenal squad does laps of the school field just out of sight?
No Wilshere or Welbeck for the Gunners’ opener against West Ham and Arsene Wenger may also need to find a replacement for Alexis Sanchez. But the Chilean could do with the rest having led his country to the Copa America title over the summer and Wenger obviously thinks he has the strength-in-depth to cover all eventualities. Petr Cech has been Arsenal’s sole signing so far in the transfer window whereas 11 players have left the Emirates, though the Londoners continue to be linked with a big-money move for Karim Benzema.
This is a big season for the Hammers, their last at Upton Park before moving to the Olympic Stadium, but it’s going to be one of transition in more ways than one. Slaven Bilic has replaced the unpopular Sam Allardyce and has swelled ranks with the addition of Manuel Lanzini, Dimitri Payet and Pedro Obiang. But last season’s leading striker Enner Valencia is already facing months out of action and there is no sign of Andy Carroll returning any time soon. West Ham look desperately short of firepower but maybe that early exit from Europe will be a blessing in disguise.
West Ham haven’t beaten Arsenal in 15 attempts and it’s hard to see that miserable run being ended this weekend. No surprise that the Gunners are 1/4 to make a winning start but don’t expect a flood of goals given both sides’ shortage of strikers – under 2.5 total goals may be worth a second look at 5/4.
The match kicks off at 1.30pm on Sunday, August 9th at the Emirates