Arsenal travel to Upton Park this weekend for the Premiership clash with West Ham United looking for their first win in four attempts against their fellow Londoners.
Arsene Wenger’s side lost twice to West Ham last year, the second an unbelieveable 1-0 defeat totally against the run of play, and know a win will give them every chance of extending their lead at the top of the league. Unfortunately for Arsenal, they will still be without William Gallas and Tomas Rosicky, but on a more positive note, may have Alexander Hleb back for the important clash.
“We’ll have to assess the situation of Alex Hleb. We’ll look at that on Friday morning. William Gallas is maybe a week or 10 days away. As for Rosicky you can probably fix the date for Sunderland [next Sunday]. Jens Lehmann will be another week.”
With all of those casualties in mind, the starting team could be quite hard to predict. Manuel Almunia will definitely continue in goals with Jens Lehmann still “injured”, whilst Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy will no doubt feature on the right and left respectively. Central defence is another issue entirely. Gilberto Silva did not feature either last weekend against Derby or in the midweek clash against Newcastle. Philippe Senderos did start in the Carling Cup game and for this reason I can see the Brazilian returning to the starting lineup to partner Kolo Toure. With Senderos currently in poor form I think it’s a move that has to be made to ensure the defence is at its best against West Ham.
Irrespective of whether Gilberto or Senderos start in central defence, Mathieu Flamini should keep his spot alongside Cesc Fabregas in the heart of midfield. Flamini has been in the best form of his career and is really starting to strike up an understanding with little Fabregas and for that reason right now, he is undroppable. Assuming both Hleb and Rosicky miss out it will be two of Abou Diaby, Denilson, Theo Walcott or Emmanuel Eboue who start in the two wide midfield positions. At this stage I would be leaning towards Diaby on the left and Walcott on the right, but that is based on nothing more than gut feeling.
Arsenal more than just Fabregas
Up front will be Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie, the latter of which will be returning from a well-earned two-week rest. With Adebayor in great form and van Persie fresh West Ham will have a great deal of trouble keeping one or both of them off the scoresheet. I would say good luck to West Ham, but I don’t think it’s going to help them despite the suggestion from Dave Evans of the Newham Recorder that West Ham supporters believe that they are Arsenal’s bogey team.
“There is no reason why Alan Curbishley shouldn’t send out his side to attack Arsenal. I think West Ham fans are thinking that they are perhaps a bogey side for Arsenal. I think Nigel Reo-Coker marked [Fabregas ]out of the game [last season] and they got a late winner. If they can do that again to Fabregas there’s no reason why they shouldn’t get the result.”
I find that comment amusing for a few reasons. Firstly, if Alan Curbishley is silly enough to come at Arsenal all guns blazing then they are going home with a three-goal loss and zero points. That is not the way to play Arsenal and it never will be and if that’s what they choose to do then they will regret it. Secondly, Nigel Reo-Coker is now an Aston Villa player and I don’t believe West Ham have anyone in midfield who could do as good a marking job as he did in the corresponding fixture last season. Finally, while Fabregas may be in the best form of his career simply marking him out of the game will not be enough. There is still Adebayor, van Persie, Clichy, Flamini (the list goes on…) who have the ability to break open the game at any moment and make the difference.
For that reason I think Arsenal will continue their unbeaten streak and win the match. While I think West Ham is a very strong side who will cause the Arsenal defence some problems, I think Wenger’s boys are in such good form and have so much going for them at the moment that they will do the job. Flamini hasn’t scored a goal yet this season and it’s about time he does, so I’m going for a 2-0 Arsenal win and the Frenchman to grab his first of the campaign.
Just as a side note, one of the first posts I ever wrote for this blog was about Arsenal’s 1-0 loss at home last season to West Ham. It was one of the most frustrating games I have ever watched as an Arsenal supporter and if it happens again their will be trouble. If you can’t remember why it was so frustrating, just click here.
What do you think?
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