Arsenal open their Premier League campaign with an intriguing clash against fellow Londoners West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
The Gunners head into the encounter coming off a terrific pre-season topped off by Sunday’s 1-0 Community Shield win over Chelsea - Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain scoring the only goal of the game at Wembley.
The victory came courtesy of a wonderful defensive display, yet this weekend’s opponents West Ham will likely adopt a similar defensive approach, therefore the onus will be on the Gunners to break them down.
With plenty of options available to boss Arsene Wenger, the Frenchman has a tough decision to make in regards to selection and he would be wise to opt for extra strength against a potentially robust opponent.
The back five should pick itself following Sunday’s performance, with the defensive duo of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny brilliant both in the air and on the floor.
West Ham will likely deploy talented new signing Dimitri Payet in a wide position, so pairing Hector Bellerin’s pace and attacking abilities against him could force the Hammers star to focus more on his defensive game.
With Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla all-but certain to start in the middle with Jack Wilshere absent, the biggest questions ahead of Saturday lie in the attacking quartet.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the most obvious choice in Alex Sanchez’s absence for that wide right spot, with his ability to cut inside and cause havoc evident during Sunday’s clash at Wembley.
Yet with West Ham likely to sit back and remain compact, selecting Olivier Giroud over Theo Walcott up top makes sense from a physical perspective, the former boasting good aerial ability and link-up play.
Moreover, the French international offers further protection when defending set-pieces, a valuable attribute against teams who have made a habit of providing plenty of danger from dead-ball situations.
Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey complete the line-up owing to a good balance of creativity and diligence, with the latter offering solid defensive protection when out of possession.