West Ham boss Slaven Bilic has issued a warning to Arsenal ahead of their Premier League opener on 9 August, insisting his side's early European excursions this summer will hand them a considerable fitness advantage at the start of the new domestic campaign.
The Hammers finished 12th in the top flight last term as they laboured during Sam Allardyce's final months in charge, yet booked their place in the first qualifying round of the much-maligned Europa League after maintaining an impressive disciplinary record that saw them top the Fair Play table ahead of Everton.
That achievement led to an extremely short break, with the first match of their two-legged tie against Lusitanos taking place just 39 days after the season ended on 2 July.
Despite seeing striker Diafra Sakho sent off in the return fixture at the DEVK-Arena, West Ham recorded a straightforward 4-0 aggregate victory over the Andorran minnows but have not had long to rest as they prepare to host Maltese outfit Birkirkara FC tonight (16 July).
Involvement in the Europa League, particularly at such an early stage, is often derided by managers and pundits alike due to an apparent adverse impact upon league matters, yet Bilic believes his side will be raring to go as as consequence.
"It's good for the start, definitely," the Croatian, who became a celebrated West Ham cult hero during a stint as a player between 1996-97 before returning to Upton Park as Allardyce's replacement in June, was quoted as saying by Sky Sports.
Bilic also faced Arsenal in early European competition last summer, when Besiktas met the Gunners during the play-off round of the Champions League with a place in the group stages of the competition at stake.
Although his team were narrowly defeated in that tie courtesy of a second-leg winner from Alexis Sanchez, Bilic claims they were much fitter than their counterparts.
He added: "The best examples are from your own history, not from the books, the experience you have. I only have to look at last year when we played with Besiktas, we played Arsenal in the Champions League play-off.
"We were fitter than them. We had already played Feyenoord in the previous round and we were fitter. Arsenal had only played the Community Shield and Crystal Palace and we were already in the season.
"It gives you a definite advantage in the beginning of the season. What about November, December or Christmastime, which is already so tough here? We're going to try to be aware of all the situations."
Bilic watched from the stands during West Ham's first match against Lusitanos, but took charge of a team that possessed a mix of established names and youngsters for the first time in Andorra.
He is once again unlikely to field his strongest side against Birkirkara, who count Palermo legend Fabrizio Miccoli among their current ranks.
While West Ham are involved in competitive action, Arsenal are currently away on their pre-season tour of South East Asia.
A Chuba Akpom hat-trick inspired them to a 4-0 win over a Singapore Select XI in Kallang on 15 July and Everton provide familiar opposition in the final of the Barclays Asia Trophy.