Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says his side must hit the ground running if they are to realise their Premier League ambitions this term.
The first London derby of the new season takes place at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, as Arsenal host West Ham.
Goalkeeper Petr Cech is Wenger’s only recruit during the close-season but impressive warm-up displays, including their Community Shield victory over Chelsea, have added weight to the argument that Arsenal can mount a serious championship challenge this time around.
Alexis Sanchez is not yet fully fit after his Copa America exertions with Chile, while Jack Wilshere’s fractured foot rules him out of the opening day, but Wenger was bullish over his side’s prospects when he spoke to the media on Friday.
“I’m ready for a fight and motivated to start well,” he said. “One of our targets is to start strong and we had good preparation, so that should give us confidence.
“Last season after 12 games we were 15 points behind Chelsea and in the next 26 we took 58 points and Chelsea 55, so that means we missed our start of the season last year.
“Let’s [try] to start strong this season. I believe we have the needed ingredients but we have a tricky start – two derbies and Liverpool in the first three games.
“Our target is very high, we want to fight for the Premier League.
“That’s our ambition – to win the Premier League. But we have to sustain that with performance and fighting spirit in every game.”
In contrast, Slaven Bilic’s first Premier League game as a manager comes at the end of a difficult week in which West Ham’s shortlived UEFA Europa League campaign was ended.
Bilic’s new side were beaten 2-1 by Astra in Romania in midweek, crashing out 4-3 on aggregate.
Ankle and knee injuries sustained by Enner Valencia in the first leg serve as a further blow, with Andy Carroll (knee) still absent.
Former West Ham and Everton defender Bilic watched Arsenal in Emirates Cup action during the close-season and believes that the current side bears many of the hallmarks of the Arsenal teams he competed against as a player.
“They are the same Arsenal and they like to have the ball and keep the ball,” he said.
“They are very versatile and are also the quickest team in the league and are the best on breaks. When you lose the ball, they are very dangerous to you.
“Against Wolfsburg [in the Emirates Cup] and against Chelsea [in the Community Shield], particularly, they improved defensively in terms of as a unit.
“They are on a high and are full of confidence but we are starting, we are very confident we can go there and play good football and get something out of the game.”