Things are great. The sun is shining, England are on the verge of clinching the Ashes, and The Arsenal are about to embark on what has the potential to be our best season in a very long time.
What could possibly go wrong? West Ham United are the visitors on Sunday, fresh from not turning up in Romania in a Europa League qualifier.
This really is the season that we are expected to have enough to mount a challenge, with the addition of Petr Čech adding to an already improving defensive record. Going forward everyone is fit and Arsenal have a lot of reasons to be very confident.
With a deeper squad and more high quality players comes pressure. There is always pressure at such a huge club, but even more when expectations are raised. That doesn’t seem to be on the mind of Arsène Wenger, who is focused on the task at hand.
“I’m ready for a fight and of course motivated to start well,” the Arsenal boss told the press on Friday. “One of our targets is to start strong. We had a good preparation and that should give us the needed confidence.”
Pre-season has certainly been good. The Emirates Cup performances were confident and defeating Chelsea in the Community Shield last Sunday saw us send a message to the rest of the league.
Now we have to do what we failed to do last season and keep up with Chelsea from the very beginning of the season.
“The Premier League is a fight in every single game so we have to prepare ourselves mentally for that and come out of the blocks straight away against West Ham.”
Last season Arsenal suffered a slow start, which left us playing catch up all season long. A good start is the initial aim this year, so we are in a position to compete.
“For me, success is to get the maximum out of the potential of the team,” Wenger said. “That is the real success. We also want to do better than last season because we always want to move forward. That means that the target is quite high.
“We are happy to be under this kind of pressure.”
It’s very much as we were last weekend. Jack Wilshere is ruled out by a hairline fracture to the left fibula and, despite returning to training, Wenger has said Alexis Sánchez isn’t yet ready to play.
The manager has plenty of options and may opt for Olivier Giroud up front, the striker has five goals in as many games against the Hammers
Possible XI: Čech; Bellerín, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Coquelin, Cazorla; Özil; Giroud.
After Sam Allardyce left at the end of last season West Ham went out and appointed Croatian Slaven Bilić, who we faced 12 months ago when he was in charge of Besiktas.
New boy Dmitri Payet can play on wither wing or behind a striker and is the player to watch. Last season he created 17 goals for Marseille in Ligue 1.
“He can always deliver the special pass,” said Wenger on Friday. “He’s a highly-gifted player and he will add something on the creative front to the West Ham team, that’s for sure.”
The Hammers have also added Italian defender Angelo Ogbonna and midfielder Pedro Obiang this summer. Carl Jenkinson has re-joined on loan but is ineligible this weekend.
They are already out of the Europa League after sending what was essentially a youth team to Romania, so Arsenal will face the proper West Ham side.
Possible XI: Adrian; Tomkins, Reid, Collins, Cresswell; Kouyaté, Noble, Obiang; Jarvis, Sakho, Payet.
Out of the blocks
Arsenal certainly started slowly last season and it cannot happen again. This year the squad is big enough, the injury record has started to improve, and there was no World Cup distraction over the summer.
There Gunners are without Alexis Sánchez this weekend but should still have far too much for West Ham, who were blown away by a quick passing game at Emirates Stadium just five months ago.
Arsenal have displayed similar form in pre-season and another display of that sort would see the Gunners out of the blocks with three points on Sunday evening. Please.