The 2017-18 Premier League campaign gets underway at the Emirates Stadium on Friday night as two past champions in Arsenal and Leicester City lock horns.
After surviving the growing calls to step aside in the second half of last season, the pressure is now on Arsene Wenger to finally end the Gunners’ long wait for a top-flight crown, while Leicester will themselves be hoping for a smoother journey after briefly flirting with relegation last time out.
For the first time in more than two decades, Arsenal head into a new campaign without Champions League football to contend with. For many that was reason enough to dispense with Wenger during the summer, but the Frenchman again survived and put pen to paper on a two-year deal.
It is hoped that, with the speculation now over for another couple of seasons, the fanbase can get back to cheering on the players rather than focusing on the manager, as the constant hounding and #WengerOut displays took prominence for large parts of 2016-17.
Unproven he may be, but the appointment of Craig Shakespeare at the King Power Stadium in February could well have been the difference between Premier League football and life in the Championship for Leicester.
Make no mistake about it – the Foxes were well on their way to joining Manchester City by claiming the unenviable record of going down as champions, if not for the impressive work of Shakespeare to completely galvanise the players that he had got to know so well during his time as assistant.
Arsenal will be without star man Alexis Sanchez for the next fortnight due to an abdominal issue, although if Wenger has his way then the Chilean has certainly not played his final game for the club.
Laurent Koscielny will sit out the opener due to a suspension carried over from last term, while fellow defender Gabriel Paulista is nursing a knee complaint.
In terms of the visitors, Shakespeare has vowed to play wantaway winger Riyad Mahrez – the subject of interest from Roma and Inter Milan, as well as Friday night opponents Arsenal – as he remains ‘fully committed’ to the club.
New recruits Iheanacho and Maguire are likely to fit straight in, but fellow newbie Iborra is out for a couple of weeks with a groin strain.
Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Mertesacker, Monreal, Kolasinac; Xhaka, Ramsey; Welbeck, Lacazette, Iwobi
Leicester City possible starting lineup:
Schmeichel; Simpson, Maguire, Morgan, Fuchs; Mahrez, Ndidi, Amartey, Gray; Iheanacho, Vardy
ADMIN PREDICTION:Arsenal To WIN and Over 2.5
DROP YOUR PREDICTIONS BELOW!!!!