Saturday, 14 March 2015

Arsenal v West Ham Preview And Predicted Arsenal Line Up

With the FA Cup quarter final still fresh in our memories it's back to Premier League action for Arsenal today when West Ham come calling. Arsenal are on a great run in the league at the moment with seven wins in their last eight games even if all of their performances have not exactly been thoroughly convincing. The only setback in that run was the defeat at Spurs, but finishing above them will at least consign that memory to the easily forgotten list.

Arsenal's home form in the league has been top notch too and they have won all seven of their home league games since United luckily beat them in November. The Champions League defeat to Monaco has been the only home setback since that game and Arsenal get the chance to try to make amends for that game on Tursday night. Their task in Monaco is a huge one, but it shouldn't deflect from their efforts to qualify for the competition again next season.

As it stands Arsenal are a point ahead of United in third place and only slightly ahead of the three teams chasing behind United. They are only four points behind second placed City though and if they can continue to rack up the points at the current rate they are going to put some real pressure on City. Arsenal are the only team in the top seven playing in the traditional 3pm Saturday kick off slot and they can put some real pressure on the other teams if they can take the three points.

A win for Arsenal would see them cut the gap to City to one point before City travel to Burnley later in the day and even cut the gap to league leaders Chelsea to just six points. Chelsea would have two games in hand though and I don't hold out any hope of Arsenal catching them, but I would love to see them make Chelsea sweat just a little. It was great to see Chelsea lose out at home to PSG on Wednesday night and exit the European stage before Arsenal even it was by only a week.

The players have being playing a lot of games recently and fatigue could well be a factor in Arsene Wenger's team selection. I can't imagine that he will rest players ahead of the Monaco game when Arsenal's chances are so slim and I think he will play the strongest team he can. It's always easier for players to find the energy they need when the team are doing well and they're trying to make an impression ahead of big games.

The team will definitely be different from the one which won away to United on Monday night with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain injured and David Ospina sure to regain his place in goal. I don't think there will be too many other changes though as the three points are so important. With Chamberlain out I think Danny Welbeck will move to the right and Olivier Giroud will come back into the centre forward role.

There's always the possibility of Theo Walcott getting a game, but judging by recent games it looks like he'll be warming the bench again. He looked to be well on his way back to his best form after missing a whole year through injury, but all of a sudden he has become surplus to requirements. I don't know if there has been a problem or if the boss just doesn't think he's the right player for the team at the moment. There's an awful lot of competition right now, but it seems Walcott is the one suffering the most from it.

The only player to return to the squad will be Mathieu Flamini who has recovered from his injury and should take a place on the bench. Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs and Tomas Rosicky will all be chomping at the bit to be included too, but I can't see Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla or Mesut Ozil missing out. There's so much creativity between the three of those players and they have all had a huge part in the team's current run.

While Arsensl have been racking up the points West Ham have being going in the opposite direction and have dropped to tenth in the table. They have only won once in their last 11 league games and their brief flirtation with the top four seems a long time ago. They will of course pose a threat from set pieces which is one of the reasons I think Giroud will play. They have only won three of their 13 away games, but they have a good goalscoring record on the road with only four teams scoring more away goals than West Ham.

On the plus side for Arsenal West Ham will be without Carl Jenkinson as he can't play against the side who have loaned him to them. As well as missing Jenkinson they have quite a few defenders out injured and Arsenal could find themselves up against a makeshift defence. Arsenal have being finding goals easier to come by and hopefully they can make inroads against a defence which is missing some of it's better players.

West Ham will be bringing ex Arsenal player Alex Song with them and his career has been in decline since he left the club. He was in a big hurry to join Barcelona, but he never claimed a place in their team and has been loaned out to West Ham. He has been laying out what he sees as the way for West Ham to beat Arsenal this week, but they will have their work cut out to get anything out of the game.

A good performance and three points from Arsenal are just what the team needs ahead of the Monaco game and I expect them to get the three points. Hopefully the league table will look very good for Arsenal at 5pm before the rest of the top seven get to play their games. All of the top seven won last time out, but that certainly won't be the case this time with four of them playing amongst themselves.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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