Defence the Key in Overcoming Relegation Battlers
Arsenal host West Ham tonight at the Emirates Stadium in the English Premier League in a game in which victory is essential for both sides. Arsenal will be looking to consolidate their top four position whilst a victory is imperitave for West Ham if they are to continue their unlikely attempt at avoiding relegation.
The last time these two sides Marlon Harewood fired home a late winner after an explosive 90 minutes that saw Arsene Wenger and ex-West Ham manager Alan Pardew clash on the sidelines. With Pardew now at Charlton, it is unlikely to sooth any bad blood between the clubs as both sets of players also clashed after the final whistle.
I spoke earlier this week about the importance of Arsenal having their first-choice back four available and am pleased to say that Arsene will start with Eboue, Gallas, Toure and Clichy at the back for only the second time this season in all competitions. In addition, Gilberto Silva is back from injury and with this Arsenal’s defence has a very solid feel about it.
Arsenal have struggled for goals of late but if they can keep West Ham out at one end they will probably win as long as Adebayor has a decent game. It is always difficult playing against a side who are battling against relegation and Wenger will have to watch out for the likes of Carlos Tevez and Bobby Zamora who seem to be returning to form. Tevez in particular has been scintillating in the past two matches, and Arsenal will need some tight marking to keep him quiet.
It is unlikely that Arsenal’s attack will miraculously return to form a week after they were destroyed against Liverpool in the Premier League, but a good defensive performance should see them grab a draw or sneak the result against West Ham. It sounds like we’re the small club going into this game but, like I mentioned, playing against relegation battlers at this stage of the season can be more difficult than playing European Champions.
Arsenal Likely Starting Team: Lehmann, Eboue, Gallas, Toure, Clichy, Hleb, Gilberto Silva, Fabregas, Ljungberg* (or Rosicky), Baptista, Adebayor.
*Hopefully Arsene Wenger will refrain from playing Abou Diaby on the left again this weekend as, great a player as he may be, he is just not a winger. I can see Diaby returning to the bench and Ljungberg or Rosicky returning to the starting line-up in place of him.
Prediction: 1-0 Arsenal. If their defence can hold firm, someone should grab a goal at some stage for the Gunners to grab all three points.