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Title hopefuls Arsenal should continue feel-good factor against West Ham at the Emirates

07 Aug | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Title hopefuls Arsenal should continue feel-good factor against West Ham at the Emirates

There is a momentum surrounding Arsene Wenger's side - they have to challenge for the league this season

Arsene Wenger will know that this season represents the greatest chance of leading Arsenal to their first Premier League title since his great Invincibles side did so 11 years ago.

To borrow a popular football buzzword, there has been a momentum surrounding the club ever since they emphatically retained the FA Cup against Aston Villa in May.

The signing of goalkeeper Petr Cech continued this and – more importantly – vastly-improved an area of their squad that had been neglected ever since the departure of Jens Lehmann in 2008.

Beating Chelsea 1-0 in the Community Shield at Wembley last week – incredibly Arsene Wenger’s first victory over Jose Mourinho – only enhanced the club’s pre-season buoyancy.

But now the real business starts. Arsenal, having developed a core of young players and spent huge wages on marquee names, have a balanced, settled squad.

They have to compete for the title.

4/1 – Arsenal to win the Premier League

It has been so long since Wenger’s side mounted a genuine challenge that it is impossible to predict how they will handle the pressure in the high-stake months of March, April and June.

All that is moot, however, if the Gunners fail to put themselves into contention.

A strong start – last year yielded just two wins from their opening eight games in the league – is crucial.

Hosting West Ham at the Emirates on Sunday lunchtime, then, appears to be an ideal way to start the new campaign.

2/7 – Arsenal to beat West Ham

That is even though Alexis Sanchez is unlikely to feature – at least not from the start. The Chilean forward has returned to training following an extended post-Copa America break, but is not considered ready for 90 minutes.

It is unlikely his world-class talents will be required.

16/1 – Alexis Sanchez to be Premier League top scorer

The absence of Jack Wilshere, meanwhile, who will miss at least the next two months with a hairline fracture of his ankle, is a bigger blow for England.

Arsenal’s first eleven looks formidable and should be too strong for their London rivals at the weekend.

History is certainly against West Ham, who are without a win at the Emirates in eight years and have scored only three times at the ground.

Having to play a Europa League qualifier in Romania on Thursday night – they lost 2-1 to Astra Giurgiu to go out 4-3 on aggregate – has not helped the Hammers’ cause.

Despite manager Slaven Bilic playing an understrength side, the fixture still robbed him and his team of valuable preparation time for the first domestic game of the season.

The whole summer has been less than ideal for the Croatian, whose plans for the new campaign have been punctuated by having to play three two-legged ties in stifling hot European destinations.

Bilic was always going to face criticism, but he will hope his side can settle now his sole focus is on the league.

Big things are expected of Dimitri Payet, the French forward who arrived at Upton Park from Marseille for an eight-figure fee this summer, in particular.

The signing of Payet, who scored seven goals and recorded 17 assists, has been praised by Wenger, who knows all about his fellow Frenchman.

But the Arsenal boss will be confident his own big-money signing – the four-time Premier League-winning Cech – will be able to keep his side out of trouble.

His myriad of attacking players should take care of the rest.

6/1 – Dimitri Payet to be Hammer of the Year

Premier League betting

READ: Darren Lewis: Spite, spats and bad blood – welcome to the most hotly-contested title race ever

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