Arsenal out to end their opening-day jinx
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Arsenal vs Leicester City - 8:45pm
LONDON - Arsenal are desperate to open the Premier League season strongly to put last season's negativity firmly behind them and justify the decision to hand Arsene Wenger a new two-year contract.
Judging by recent history, however, there could be some more rocky times ahead.
The Gunners have a habit of stumbling out of the blocks in the Premier League, having won just one of their past seven season openers.
Their opening-day failures have often contributed to a restless mood among fans heading into the final weeks of the transfer window, and Wenger will be keen to avoid a repeat of that when his team hosts Leicester at the Emirates on Friday.
"It's true that in recent years we have [often lost the opener], down to some special circumstances, sometimes because it's after the World Cup or after the European Championship when we have many players who were not ready to start the season," Wenger said this week.
"So we have a good opportunity to show that we have had a good preparation and we are ready."
But with Alexis Sanchez injured, Laurent Koscielny suspended and doubts surrounding Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Per Mertesacker, there is every reason for Arsenal fans to feel a bit worried. Especially when you take a look at Arsenal's last seven opening days:
2010-11: Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal
Arsenal were fortunate to come away with a draw in this one, as Pepe Reina's mistake in injury time salvaged a point for the Gunners. Maroune Chamkh hit the post and Reina then spilled the rebound into his own net in a game more notable for Joe Cole being sent off on his Premier League debut.
2011-12: Newcastle 0-0 Arsenal
Arsenal opened this season in a bit of turmoil because of the transfer sagas surrounding Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, who were left out of the squad for the first game. It didn't get better when new signing Gervinho was sent off on his debut for slapping Joey Barton as Arsenal failed to break down Newcastle.
2012-13: Arsenal 0-0 Sunderland
Arsenal were dealing with another exit after the sale of Robin van Persie, and his replacements, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski, couldn't find the net as the Gunners began their campaign with another scoreless draw.
2013-14: Arsenal 1-3 Aston Villa
Arsenal led in this game but then crumbled defensively as Villa went ahead through two penalties and then sealed the victory after Laurent Koscielny had been sent off. The game ended with fans chanting for the club to spend some money, which it then did by buying Ozil from Real Madrid.
2014-15: Arsenal 2-1 Crystal Palace
Arsenal looked headed for another dismal Opening Day when they went behind in the first half. But Koscielny headed in an equaliser before the break, and Ramsey popped up to score the winner in injury time, minutes after Jason Puncheon had been sent off.
2015-16: Arsenal 0-2 West Ham
Petr Cech's Arsenal debut was one to forget as he made a mistake on West Ham's opening goal and then was beaten a bit too easily by a long-range strike in the second half. It made for another half-empty Emirates Stadium by the final whistle on Opening Day.
2016-17: Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool
Arsenal were ill prepared for the start of the campaign, with Granit Xhaka the only major signing yet to be completed and several key players coming back late from Euro 2016.
That meant they started with newcomer Rob Holding and fellow youngster Calum Chambers at centre-back and were torn apart by Liverpool in the second half. Trailing 4-1, they at least managed a late rally to make the scoreline respectable.