In the sixth edition of our Classic Match series, we take you back in time once more to relive a memorable encounter at the Emirates Stadium on this occasion, against last night’s Carabao Cup opponents in Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal.
Cast your minds back to the hot summer of 2015, “Drag Me Down” buy One Direction was on top of the UK Music Charts and London’s entire Underground Network had just been shut for the day due to strike action.
Meanwhile, in the Football world, after a summer of toil, the Premier League was finally returning and a tantalising first Matchday of the season awaited fans in early August.
Having just taken the reins in East London following the sacking of Sam Allardyce, Slaven Bilic was preparing for his first ever Premier League game as a Manager, a daunting trip to the Emirates.
The Gunners, off the back of finishing third in the previous campaign, were FA Cup holders and in their last taste of Competitive action, had defeated Chelsea in the Community Shield, seven days previously at Wembley Stadium.
But, the 2015/2016 season had started much earlier for Bilic, early July to be precise after the Hammers won UEFA’s Fair Play Award to gain entry into the Qualifying Rounds of the Europa League.
They had defeated Lusitanos and Birkirkara over the course of the last month, but just three days earlier suffered European heartbreak at the hands of FC Astra Giurgiu of Romania, losing 3-3 on aggregate and failing to make the Group Stages.
With the scene set for their opening clash with Arsene Wenger’s men, the Frenchman starting his 20th campaign in North London, the two teams were announced.
The danger men could be easily picked out in both sides, the likes of Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud posing threats for the hosts, with Petr Cech, just signed from the Blues, making his first PL start in Arsenal colours.
Meanwhile, for the visitors, who were given little chance of getting a result by the Bookmakers, there was a big surprise in midfield as 16-year-old prodigy Reece Oxford featured from the start, with expensive Frenchman Dimitri Payet drawing attention ahead of him, Diafra Sakho looked a likely goal-scorer up-front.
On a very sunny Super Sunday in the Capital, the Gunners would pile the pressure on from the off, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla coming very close indeed from tough angles, Adrian San-Miguel also being tested out a fair few times early on.
But, the away side did always look a distinct threat on the counter-attack, with Payet dictating the play, the game’s real turning point would arrive just two minutes before the Referee’s half-time whistle.
Oxford, the starlet, had done excellently to win a free-kick just inside the Arsenal half, Payet was to step up and take it, the former Marseille man whipping an excellent delivery into a position of real danger.
There to meet it was Senegal Skipper Cheikhou Kouyate, who was able to simply guide the ball into an empty net after the onrushing Cech had missed it, a nightmare for the shot-stopper.
It was a shock lead that sent the travelling Claret & Blue Army into delirium behind the opposite goal, however, things would just get better and better for them.
Early in the second period, Mauro Zarate, constantly making himself a nuisance, capitalized on some weak defending from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to steal the ball just outside the area.
The Argentine quickly turned to fire a snap shot that caught Cech by surprise and swiftly found his right-hand bottom corner, prompting wild celebrations from the corner of away fans.
Although the hosts rallied late on, they couldn’t muster up anything and the Irons held out for only their second ever League win at the Emirates Stadium, turning things around rapidly after the Romanian disappointment on the Thursday.
The result meant that the North Londoners finished the weekend in bottom place, eventually going onto end 2015/2016 second, whereas, Bilic’s men climbed to third with the historic victory, ending the campaign in seventh and clinching Europa League Qualification once more.