Thursday, 26 December 2013

Arsenal's Trip To West Ham Previewed

Arsenal make the trip to a West Ham today knowing that a victory will take them back to the top of the Premier League unless Liverpool can win at City in the late kick off. Arsenal haven't won in three league games and four in all competitions and they need to put an end to that run with a victory at West Ham. The points dropped to Everton, City and Chelsea could be crucial at the end of the season, but Arsenal's ability to put away the teams in the lower half of the table has seen them continue to challenge at the top of the table.

While City have being losing to Sunderland, Cardiff and Villa, Chelsea lost at Stoke recently and Liverpool were beaten at Hull, Arsenal have managed to beat the teams they should beat with the exception of the opening day defeat to Villa and the draw with West Brom. At the end of the season the team with the most points will win the league and it doesn't matter who those points are gained against. West Ham fit into the category of a team Arsenal should beat and the team have to make sure they do just that.

West Ham have only won once in their last 10 league games and they have lost six of those games. They're only one point and one place above the relegation zone and have had a lot of injury problems so far this season. They spent a lot of money to bring injury prone Andy Carroll in last summer and he has lived up to his reputation and not played a minute for them because of injury.

They have only won two of their eight home games and have lost four of them with only eight goals scored in those games. Their defence stood them in good stead earlier in the season, but they have let 17 goals in during their run of one win in 10 and only scored seven. They are there for the taking and so is top spot in the league and Arsenal have to take them both while they can.

With so many games over the festive period there will probably be some rotation in the Arsenal team and I wouldn't be surprised to see Mathieu Flamini and Santi Cazorla come into the team. If he's recovered from his bad knee gash I think Laurent Koscielny might also return and there's a chance Serge Gnabry will get a run out too. I think Lukas Podolski will make his return after four months of injury too, but only as a sub at some stage late in the game.

Flamini will probably come in for Mikael Arteta who was lucky it was only his shin guard which was snapped in two by Chelsea on Monday night. The other player to miss out will most likely be Tomas Rosicky, but there is a chance of either Mesut Ozil or Aaron Ramsey being given a rest ahead of a tough trip to Newcastle on Sunday. Arsenal have so much quality in midfield that they should be able to make those changes without affecting their ability to win the game.

The games against Everton, City and Chelsea were all very important and while City was the only one Arsenal lost they didn't win any of them. They need to get back on track and that makes this game against West Ham just as important as any of those games. If Arsenal don't win the confidence of the players may take an even bigger dent and that's something they cannot allow to happen.

Arsenal have a very good away record with only Spurs winning more away games so far and Arsenal are the joint highest scorers away from home. Their defence has been very good away from home with the exception of the six goals City put past them in their last away game. That game came at the end of a gruelling week for the team and West Ham are not the team City are.

The games are coming thick and fast at the moment and squad rotation is very important for every team. It's important for Arsenal to have a strong team available for the trip to a Newcastle team in very good form on Sunday, but it's equally important to make sure the team go into that game on the back of a victory against West Ham. The players had a break of over a week before the Chelsea game and I think that will have been of benefit to them.

West Ham played a Capital One Cup game away to Spurs during that break for Arsenal and won through to the semi finals. That game was followed by a tough trip to United on Saturday and they might well be feeling the effects of those two games. They did very well to beat Spurs but were never really in the game in losing 3-1 to United.

The Arsenal players have had very few setbacks this season and it was important they didn't lose to Chelsea after the defeats at City and Napoli. I think the game with Chelsea was enough to stabilise the team after those games and the draw may not have been ideal, but it was important they didn't lose. They need to show they have put those defeats behind them by taking all three points at West Ham and I believe they will do so. 

It's not really about the personell on the day as the team need to get back to winning ways and playing the way they can play. If they can do that they should be good enough to win against a team who are struggling to score and letting in too many goals. Of course West Ham will be up for a London derby against one of the big boys and will try to get at Arsenal and disrupt their game, but Arsenal are used to that and should be able to cope with it.

I'm predicting an Arsenal win but I think it will be a very close game with the first goal being very important. Arsenal have been very good at getting that first goal this season and hopefully they can do so again as it would be very difficult to come from behind. I think they will win and by the end of today's games they will be back at the top of the table.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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