Saturday, 6 October 2012

Arsenal's Premier League To West Ham Previewed

Arsenal make the short trip to east London tomorrow evening for a Premier League game against West Ham United. As the table currently stands Arsenal are on nine points from six games which leaves them in eighth place, two points behind today's opponents.

West Ham have had a very good start to their season after gaining promotion from the Championship via the playoffs last season. They have won two and drawn one of their three home games so far.

The last time the two clubs met was two seasons ago when Arsenal took all six points off West Ham in the league. West Ham were relegated that season but they still tried to play a decent brand of football. Since then Sam Allardyce has taken over the reins at the club and changed their style dramatically.

West Ham won't bamboozle Arsenal with a movement of 25 passes before walking the ball into the net. Their first objective will be to hit Andy Carroll with long balls or to get the ball wide and swing it in towards his head. They will be delighted to have any set pieces in Arsenal's half of the pitch so they can take the opportunity to cause panic in the Arsenal defence.

It's not exactly a pretty style of football, but with their current manager nothing else is to be expected. Besides playing in a similar style to Stoke City they are also quite prepared to put the boot in like Stoke too. Their eight yellow cards against QPR last Monday tell a story of their own.

They also committed 21 fouls in that game and the Arsenal players can expect to have sore shins and calves after the game. Hopefully the referee will offer them some sort of protection, but with Phil Dowd in charge I doubt it.

Arsenal have been quite good in defence so far this season and no team has really played it's way through them. They have looked vulnerable from set pieces though and that is where West Ham get most of their joy. The Arsenal defenders can expect an aerial bombardment at any given opportunity and they will need to be at their very best to resist.

Of course Arsenal have plenty of attacking prowess of their own and they are sure to have a lot more of the ball than West Ham. What they do with the ball when they have it could be what makes the difference in the game.

I would imagine Arsene Wenger will go with more or less the same team which beat Olympiacos on Wednesday night. He has to decide if Per Mertesacker should be brought back into the team after missing the last two games due to being dropped and a bout of illness. Mertesacker's height could be a real bonus for Arsenal in the aerial battle at the back.

If Mertesacker does come in it would surely mean Laurent Koscielny dropping to the bench. Thomas Vermaelen has to play as club captain I would imagine and Koscielny would be the obvious choice to miss out. The best central defensive pairing for Arsenal would seem to be either Vermaelen or Koscielny alongside Mertesacker.

In midfield Frances Coquelin played quite well in place of the injured Abou Diaby on Wednesday night. He looked to have got a bout of cramp late on, but hopefully he will be fit to take his place in the team. He might not get picked of course as it's a straight choice between him and Aaron Ramsey in midfield.

The other big decision for the manger could be his choice of central striker. Gervinho has done enough in recent games to justify his place in the team even if he is a very frustrating player to watch. I have a feeling he might move out to the right hand side with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain missing out.

That would hopefully make a place in the team for Olivier Giroud. He is exactly the type of player Arsenal will need in this game with his build and ability in the air. He can help the defence out at set pieces as well as hopefully getting his name on the score sheet at the other end.

Arsenal have played nine games this season but Giroud has only been chosen to start in four of those games. It can't be easy for him to find his goal scoring form when he is limited to 15 minute appearances most of the time. I think he has the ability to be a very important player for Arsenal this season and I hope the goals start flowing for him very soon.

This game will be a very stern test for Arsenal and it's one they really have to win. Chelsea have a home game against Norwich earlier in the day and a win would put them 10 points ahead of Arsenal. At this early stage that gap is still too big and the three points on offer against West Ham are three points Arsenal need.

I have always considered an average of two points a game to be the very least a team needs to challenge for the league since three points for a win was introduced. Arsenal would need to win their next three games to get back to that average starting with West Ham today.

Arsenal have enough players with the ability to take the West Ham apart as long as they can fight hard enough to earn the right to play. West Ham are bound to try to pressurise the Arsenal midfield as it worked for Chelsea last week. They don't have players with the ability of Chelsea though and they won't find it easy.

As long as Arsenal can keep Carroll and Kevin Nolan relatively quiet I think they can take all three points. It will probably be a very tight game and I'm predicting a 2-1 win for Arsenal. Of course I would be happy with a bigger win, but the most important thing is that they take the three points.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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