Arsenal will travel to the Olympic Stadium on Saturday to take on a struggling West Ham United side in one of the numerous London derbies of the Premier League season.
The Gunners will be looking to carry on their form from the 3-1 win over Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth last weekend as they try to continue to get over their mini-malaise.
West Ham failed to win a single game in November and haven’t been victorious in the league since a stoppage-time strike from Winston Reid against Sunderland resulted in a 1-0 win from the Hammers on October 22nd. Slaven Bilic kick-started his term in charge with a 2-0 victory against Saturday's opponents and will be looking to get things back on track this weekend.
Arsenal looking to bounce back
After a disappointing showing from Arsenal’s second string against Southampton midweek in the EFL Cup; Arsene Wenger will be hoping his squad show the mental strength and resolve to turn up on Saturday.
Arsenal have only won one of their last five games in all competitions – a run that has coincided with the absence of Santi Cazorla. The Spaniard last appeared in the 6-0 demolition of Ludogorets in mid October and while Arsenal went on to wins three of their next four games the dip in form has come. The much maligned Aaron Ramsey has had a run out in the middle and Granit Xhaka has been given a chance but the one constant has been Francis Coquelin; another who has received a lot of criticism in recent times.
It is clear that Wenger needs to rethink his midfield line-up as the entire team has become more stagnant in Cazorla’s absence. With the Spaniard in the team, Coquelin’s lack of ability on the ball is masked by the creativity and recycling ability of his midfield partner but in his absence the destroyer is horribly exposed.
Against Spurs, United and PSG: Coqeulin’s ponderous-ness on the ball has lead to Arsenal’s thrust on the counter to be countered. One tandem that would seemingly help cover for Cazorla’s absence would be that of Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey. The pair shone during the Euros over the summer and would have been expecting much more from this season so far. Xhaka could provide a similar partner to Ramsey during his most prolific patch in 2013/14: Mikel Arteta. The pair are both deep-lying playmakers and their ability to sit deep would help afford Ramsey the freedom to roam forwards.
Another option for Arsenal would be to adopt a 4-3-3 and pushing Mesut Ozil out wide. This would afford Arsenal more control in the central third of the field allowing Mohammed Elneny or Coquelin to partner the aforementioned duo in order to add more stability.
Hammers looking to finally fulfil their promise
Slaven Bilic’s side have been one of the disappointments of the 2016/17 season so far as they sit inches above the drop zone. West Ham are currently in 16th place in the table with a meagre 12 points from 13 games thus far.
Dimitri Payet is looking increasingly frustrated and it is clear that the Frenchman is not impressed with his clubs’ performances and failure to capitalise on a stellar campaign last time out. With rumours of a January move persisting; the Hammers will be hoping things finally begin to click and that they can persuade the maestro that his future remains in the famous claret and blue.
Simeone Zaza’s failings up front despite being a big summer signing has not helped Bilic’s side in their plight for goals. The manager has even resorted to playing winger turned full-back Michail Antonio up front on a handful of occasions. The return of Andy Carroll will be a sight for sore eyes for the West Ham faithful as the English forward fired a hat-trick past Arsenal in the corresponding fixture in April of last season.
Arsenal and West Ham are two of the teams suffering the most injuries at present according to physioroom.com, at nine and eight injuries respectively.
The Gunners will still be without the services of Spanish duo Hector Bellerin and Santi Cazorla. The two are amongst Arsenal’s most consistent and important players and Wenger has a selection headache with Mathieu Debuchy out with hamstring issues and Mohammed Elneny suffering from an illness.
Gabriel featured at right-back in the 3-1 win over Bournemouth last week and grew in confidence and competence in the role every passing minute. Wenger will have to choose between him, Carl Jenkinson and Rob Holding or possibly moving Mustafi out wide. In more positive news for Arsenal Olivier Giroud is back from a groin strain but probably won’t start ahead of Alexis Sanchez who was in scintillating form last time out.
West Ham are missing an entire host of players that would make a considerable impact on their misfortunes at present. Aaron Cresswell, Sam Byram and Diafro Sahko are all important players who are confirmed as out. The aforementioned Antonio along with loanee Gokhan Tore and youngster Reece Oxford will also be absent. Andy Carroll and Andre Ayew could both be making their returns.
Arsenal have met with West Ham in competitive fixtures 133 times; winning 61, drawing 38 and losing 34 times.
West Ham got the upper hand over Arsenal last year beating them 2-0 on the opening day of the 2015/16 season and the 3-3 draw after being 2-0 down will have been a great day for supporters too. Before that though it is Wenger’s side who have had the upper hand: not losing since April 2007 and winning 13 of the 15 ties in that period. The Hammers however own the bragging right of having three of the four biggest winning margins in the tie including a 7-0 win in 1927.