Arsenal take on West Ham later today in the day’s Premier League late kick-off at Upton Park. The match will be shown on ESPN for fans who, like me, are not able to attend the game.
West Ham have had a pretty good start to their first season back in the Premier League. They currently sit 2 points above us in 7th place. Interestingly, Arsène Wenger does not have a particularly good away record against Sam Allardyce. Wenger has won just 2 of the 9 Premier League away games that we have played against teams that are managed by Big Sam. However, we have not lost to West Ham in 8 league games (W6, D2) and they haven’t scored against us in the last 3.
What I find particularly worrying is that West Ham scored the most goals from set-plays in the Championship last season. I am sure that Allardyce will be well aware that set pieces are our achilles heal (just look at the Chelsea game!) and that is surely something that his side will be looking to focus on. Andy Caroll, who is back in the team after injury, will add some height to the West Ham side, even if he doesn’t really contribute much else.
Following Arsène Wenger’s pre-match injury update I can report only good news. There are no new injury worries that stem from Wednesday night’s Champions League win over Olympiakos. Despite worries before the game about an ankle injury, Mikel Arteta appeared to come through without any major problems and I see no reason why he won’t be fit to start this afternoon. Wenger also seems to be optimistic that Per Mertesacker will have recovered from a bout of the flu. However, Abou Diaby is missing with a thigh injury and Wojciech Szczesny and Lukas Fabianski are both still out.
Predicted Starting XI
I am wondering if this is Olivier Giroud’s time to shine. Gervinho on the right, Podolski on the left, and Giroud in the middle is a front-three to be reckoned with. The movement of all three players is fantastic and with support from the likes of Cazorla and Arteta in midfield this will be an interesting prospect. You can pretty much assume that Theo Walcott won’t start.
With the aforementioned Diaby, Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere all injured, Wenger will have to think very carefully about who he wants to start in that third midfield place. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain seems to be moving more into the centre, while Aaron Ramsey has been included in the starting line-up in recent weeks (on the wing). Francis Coquelin did not have a good game in midweek and this may influence Wenger’s team choice. There has been no mention of the injury that Coquelin seemed to pick up on Wednesday, but I am wondering if this is enough to keep him out of the side. Ramsey’s good form (and beautifully-taken goal on Wednesday) would suggest to me that he should be included.
I am unsure as to whether that Mertesacker will be well enough to start, so I have left him out of my team.
West Ham 1-2 Arsenal I am under no illusion that this will be a tough game. West Ham have height and are quite a physical team, and without Mertesacker and Diaby in the team I am worried about our lack of physical presence and about defending from set pieces. That said, I am an optimistic Arsenal fan and I think that we will win.