Arsenal went in to the season with a couple of empty places in their squad and the options were reduced further with the injuries to those named in it. Jack Wilshere has not kicked a ball this season while Tomas Rosicky might have managed it just once and Mikel Arteta might as well not have done so. Added to that Damny Welbeck is only back to full fitness a few weeks ago and you get a picture of a seriously depleted squad before a ball was kicked in August.
The money was there last summer to add to the squad, but no outfield players cane in although the purchase of Petr Cech was a definite improvement in goals. The trip to West Ham will bring us up against a player Arsene Wenger claims to have looked at many times when Dimitri Payet plays for West Ham and it's hard to believe he wouldn't have improved the squad and the team too. He joined West Ham last summer though and has been a revelation for them this season and one of the best players in the league.
Arsenal eventually signed Mohamed El Neny in January and he has gradually worked his way into the team since then. The partnership he has formed with Francis Coquelin in the last few games has looked very impressive and there's a real case for asking why we didn't sign him last summer. I know injuries have played a part in Arsenal's problems, but they went into the season with some of those injuries and it's hard to believe the manager thought they would go through the season without picking up any more.
The return of Welbeck and the emergence of Alex Iwobi have given Arsenal the mobility they have being lacking in attack and Alexis Sanchez's form has finally returned a couple of months after he returned from his injury. The deployment of Alexis on the right hand side of the attacking trio seems to have brought the best out of him again and the attacking trio in the last few games has been very impressive. I'm still a little worried that Arsenal aren't taking enough of their chances, but they definitely pose a much greater threat with those three players in the team.
I would be very surprised if there are any changes from the team that beat Watford 4-0 last week even if Aaron Ramsey is fit to return. The boss has said he would be reluctant to change the team after recent performances and I think we will see the same starting 11. Cech could always take the keeper's shirt back I suppose, but that would be a little unfair on David Ospina who has done little wrong in Cech's absence. Maybe Ospina will keep his place to ensure he has enough appearances to claim his league winners medal when Arsenal win their last seven games to snatch the title.
It has been suggested in many quarters that Everton and Watford had little to play for in the last two league games, but the same can most definitely not be said of West Ham. They're still in pursuit of a top four finish and they're only three points behind fourth placed City and only seven points behind Arsenal with seven games to go. They might have the distraction of an FA Cup quarter final replay to come on Wednesday night, but they will most certainly be up for this game.
West Ham haven't lost a home game in the league since losing their first two home games in August. They have played 13 games since then and beaten the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs and drawn with City. They travel to Leicester next week in a game where Arsenal will want them to win, but Arsenal quite simply have to win this game or they can kiss goodbye to any lingering title hopes.
After this game Arsenal will have four of their last six games at home and could realistically win them all while their remaining away games are at Sunderland and City. They can win both of those games too although the City game will be tough, but City have lost at home to Leicester, Spurs, United, West Ham and Liverpool. If they can beat West Ham there is a very real possibility they can win all of their remaining games and put some real pressure on Leicester.
As well as Arsenal have played in the last few games I think they will have to step up their game to beat West Ham. Payet is a real handful and any free kick outside the box could be a real problem for Arsenal. They have other good attacking players such as Manuel Lanzini and Michail Antonio who can cause Arsenal real problems too although Antonio has had to play at right back recently due to injuries to other players.
As good as West Ham have been they do give up chances at the other end and this Arsenal team is better set to hit teams on the break with the pace and power of the front three. West Ham need to win the game too and it could be an open game with both teams going for it and that's the type of game Arsenal have struggled in at times. They will need to take the big chances that come their way and if they can do that they will have every chance of taking the three points.
I don't hold out much hope of Sunderland taking points off Leicester on Sunday and a defeat to West Ham will end any thoughts of Arsenal catching Leicester. I want the rest of the season to have more meaning than the annual fight to secure a top four finish and win is essential to keep their slight chances alive. I'm by no means certain Arsenal will win, but I have a sneaking suspicion they might just sneak it to keep our hopes alive for another week or two at least.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.