Arsenal play West Ham at home tonight in a must win Premier League game for them. They have taken only one point in three league games so far this month and they have to start winning games now. It's the first of three home league games in a row and Arsenal need a minimum of seven points from those three games.
In truth they probably need nine points from those games but considering their current form seven points would not be a bad return. They currently lie seven points behind fourth placed Spurs with a game in hand and they need to close that gap as soon as possible. Everton are four points ahead of them too and they have also played a game more at this stage.
The league table would look an awful lot better for Arsenal ahead of their FA Cup trip to Brighton on Saturday if they get the three points tonight. The FA cup represents Arsenal's only real chance of a trophy this season and it is a competition that has to be treated with respect. They have to be able to field a team on Saturday that can go to Brighton and win the game.
That won't be easy for a team that is struggling to keep pace with playing twice a week at the moment. The squad depth at Arsenal just isn't good enough at the moment and they're picking up a few injuries at the moment too. They need to bring in reinforcements before the transfer window closes at the end of the month and Arsene Wenger spoke of his intention of doing so yesterday.
He said he wants to bring in players but that it's not easy to do so with players who are under contract unless their clubs are willing to sell them. Arsenal have plenty of money to spend and using that money on the right players could just give them the impetus the team is so badly missing at the moment. I wanted Arsenal to get their business done early on in the transfer window, but at this stage I just want some good players to be added to the squad before the window closes.
The recent volume of games is starting to take it's toll on the players and Francis Coquelin is the latest player to pick up an injury. He injured his hamstring in the defeat at Chelsea on Sunday and no return date has been given for him yet. With Mikael Arteta already injured Arsenal will struggle to find a player to play the defensive midfield role.
Abou Diaby might have been expected to play there, but he was thrown in at the deep after three months out injured and looks like he needs a rest already. Considering his injury record it would be a huge gamble to play him and very unfair on the player too. He looked tired on Sunday and it would probably be better if he was given a rest until the game on Saturday.
There should be a couple of players returning to the squad tonight, as both Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have recovered from the illness that kept them out of the squad on Sunday. If Podolski is up to playing tonight I would expect him to start in a wide left role with Santi Cazorla switching back to a midfield role. Chamberlain can play in that position too but I would expect Podolski to get the nod.
I would be surprised to see any changes in defence despite the poor form of Bacary Sagna in the last few games. Carl Jenkinson must be chomping at the bit and wondering exactly how bad Sagna has to play before he gets a chance. I'm sure he doesn't want to see Sagna play badly, but he must also think he can do better than him at the moment.
I wasn't overly impressed by Oliver Giroud on Sunday but I think he has to play again tonight. He is the only player Arsenal have who is capable of leading the line and his efforts in defending set pieces cannot be overlooked either. West Ham will take every opportunity they can to pump the ball into the Arsenal box and Giroud's contribution could be very important.
West Ham play a style of football which isn't exactly attractive, but it was quite effective for them earlier in the season. They haven't fared so well in recent games though with only two wins in their last 11 league games. They probably will garner enough points to safely avoid relegation, but they're struggling at the moment.
West Ham have managed to win two of their 10 away games so far, but they have only scored five goals in those 10 games. They have also lost six of those games and Arsenal have to make that figure seven by the end of tonight.
Despite Arsenal's defence looking decidedly unstable at the best of times this season they have a pretty good defensive record. Only City and Chelsea have conceded less league goals than them this season and they will have to be strong tonight. West Ham won't spend much time in their build up play as they will look to launch the ball at the Arsenal defence at every single opportunity.
Arsenal will have to concentrate at all times and make sure they are there to win the second ball when headers are won in their box. Wojciech Szczesny will have to be brave and time his runs from goal to perfection to cut out what crosses he can. He can expect the West Ham players to try to put him off by fair or foul means as any Sam Allardyce team would do.
What Arsenal also need to do is to play their own game when in possession and do so from first minute to last. There can be no more of their second half only performances and they have to be sent out with the right mentality from the first minute. They will have far more of the ball than West Ham and they need to take advantage of that.
I would be surprised to see Emmanuel Frimpong play from the start which would probably see a midfield trio of Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey. The defensive abilities of those three aren't exactly renowned but they will have to do their share of defensive work tonight. All three of them are capable of hurting West Ham though and they will need to show their attacking capabilities too.
Arsenal have more than enough attacking ability to win by a few goals tonight and I think they will get the result they need. I'm predicting a 2-0 win for Arsenal and I'd like to see Giroud get one of the goals. He's going to have to play regularly unless Arsenal sign another striker and he could do with a goal for his confidence.
The team needs a boost too after all of the trials and tribulations of recent weeks and a win tonight would be just the tonic. It might just give them the strength to go to Brighton on Saturday and win their way through to the fifth round of the FA Cup. I'm not sure how much the players will have left by the time Liverpool come calling this time next week, but hopefully they will be up to the task.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.