A London Derby against West Ham United is normally a fixture that excites and there have been a number of games in recent years that have favoured their North London rivals, Arsenal.
However that was when the Gunners were less fragile and weren’t there for the taking. This incarnation of Arsenal is low on everything. Points, pride, confidence and harmony, all of which have been conspicuously absent since the start of the season and even a change at the top has failed to jump start the season.
Arsenal are on their worst run since 1977, with a total of eight matches without a win and regardless of the loyalty of the traveling fans to the London stadium, West Ham United would appear to be the favourites.
Freddie Ljungberg has surprised everyone by sticking to the established and more experienced players at his disposal in his previous two matches in charge, but we may about to see change favouring one or two academy stars.
When Ljungberg was promoted to the role of assistant, it was widely thought that he was the conduit for many in the academy and for a while under Emery, that was indeed the case but given the role by default, Ljungberg has sought the comfort of experience, which hasn’t gone according to plan.
Emile Smith Rowe and Tyreece John-Jules shone for the under 23’s against Blackburn Rovers recently and Zech Medley and Konstantinos Mavropanos looked comfortable in the centre of defence, something which can’t be said of their counterparts in the senior squad.
Will any of them make the cut for the game against West Ham United? It’s not certain but Mavropanos would be the most obvious to play alongside Luiz or Sokratis in an ideal world. There has also been a desire from fans to see Gabriel Martinelli start in the light of Arsenal’s flat performances and Lacazette would be the most likely casualty in that case.
Elsewhere, David Luiz’s form continues to concern and Ljungberg should either place him in a defensive midfield role with Torreira or drop him completely. Since his arrival, he has continued the dismal form which signaled the end of his Chelsea career and his inability to close down or show pace are something Arsenal can ill afford.
West Ham United will relish the chance of playing the Gunners at this stage of the season and although their recent form has been something of a lottery, they will be more than up for this fixture.
They know Arsenal are defensively poor, that they allow sides extravagant and reckless amounts of space on the ball. In possession, they are average and out of possession, they are extremely poor and the Hammers will expose their weaknesses by pressing high and forcing the game.
Arsenal need cohesion between back, midfield and attack, but unless there has been a dramatic improvement since their defeat to Brighton regarding their intensity and application, the gunners will add to their tally of eight winless games.
West Ham United will chase and bully and Manuel Pellegrini clearly has a game plan to frustrate the opposition which he hopes will take the Hammers clear of a possible relegation brawl:
“I always feel that there is enough in our team to intimidate the other team that comes,”
He said before adding:
“We are not in a critical moment. We are in a special season maybe because the league is so tight so if you win one you are in eighth position in the table.”
Thoughts on the Match:
Crucial for both sides to avoid heading towards the bottom. Pellegrini himself will be under pressure if Arsenal show up and win. If Arsenal lose, expect mass panic and the announcement of a new manager by midweek.
Preferred Side Against West Ham United:
Leno; Bellerin, Medley, Mavropanos, Tierney; Torreira, Luiz, Pepe, Smith Rowe, Aubameyang; Martinelli.
Probable Side Against West Ham United:
Leno; Bellerin, Sokratis, Luiz, Kolasinac; Torreira, Xhaka; Pepe, Ozil, Aubameyang; Lacazette.
Score: 2-1 Arsenal