WEST HAM UNITED

v

ARSENAL FC

Upton Park, London

January 15, 2011. 10:55 PM IST

***

After two below-par ‘Cup’ performances, Arsenal needs to get back into the groove as they face London rivals West Ham in an away trip sandwiched between the Carling Cup games. The travelling party will have some fresh players for this trip as they had ‘rotated’ their squad for the match against the Tractor Boys. West Ham, under a lot of pressure to stay up this season, needs to win a lot of games at home from now till the end of the season. If Arsenal brings their ‘A-game’ which includes football played at high tempo, the Hammers will certainly struggle to cope up with that. The last encounter between the two was a thrilling game which only saw the home team nicking in a goal very late into the game.

Team News and Tactical Brief

West Ham

Though the Hammers sit at the bottom of the table, their recent form has not been that bad. They have won an important first leg at home in the Carling Cup semi-final and they can play their possible ‘cup final’ opponents which is of course, considering that Arsenal get the better of Ipswich in their second leg game at The Emirates. Avram Grant, is surprisingly still at the helm of things at Upton Park, but will be under tremendous pressure till he successfully keeps his side in the top division at the end of this season.

The Hammers would need to throw out of the window the traumatic loss last weekend at the hands of Newcastle United. They need to gather some confidence back from this encounter though with the quality of the opponents, this looks like a very tough fixture for the home side. It would be interesting to see what kind of team Grant throws at Arsenal, keeping in mind a crucial cup-game coming in another four days time.

Wayne Bridge, at loan to Upton Park, might get his first start for The Hammers, proving that he is an excellent ‘acquire’. Matthew Upson, who is heavily tipped to move to The Emirates very soon, will be on a mission to prove a point to his former employers. French striker Frederic Piquioinne is a tough man to mark and the Arsenal defenders need to be focused all the time. Striker Obinna is suspended for three matches, so he is not available for this fixture. Kiron Dyer and Hitzlsperber are unavailable due to thigh injuries, while Ilunga has a muscle problem. The key-man for West Ham is most certainly Scott Parker down the middle of the park, his work-rate is unmatched in the league and the home side will look unto him for a top performance tomorrow.

Possible Starting Lineup: Green, Faubert, Tomkins, Reid, Upson, Sears, Noble, Parker, Boa Morte, Piquionne, Cole.

Arsenal

Arsenal needs to get their act straight before they meet Ipswich for a second chance in midweek. Right now, their attack looks absolutely out-of-sorts, having failed to score against a team which conceded seven a few days back to Chelsea. Arsenal has taken the Carling Cup very seriously this season, so Arsene might rest some first-team players, saving them for that match. But, with Manchester United to play later in the weekend, Arsenal can go one point too close to United if they manage to pick full points at Upton park.

After getting proper rest, Samir Nasri, Robin Van Persie and Gael Clichy will find themselves back into the team. As per latest reports, Fabianski has injured himself in training and will probably make way for his fellow Pole Szczney in front of the post. Denilson has a thigh problem, but Arsene has an entire squad of ‘fit’ players to choose from. Cesc Fabregas, after having played 90 minutes in his last match might not be risked for this encounter, so either him or Theo might pave the way for Thomas Rosicky into the team. Diaby, Vermaelen and Squillaci are unavailable through injury while Bacary Sagna is suspended because of his moment of madness against City. Eboue will fill in for the Frenchman at Right Full Back.

Djourou and Koscielny will continue in the middle of defence as Arsene has nobody else to play at that position, adamant till now, to buy in the transfer window. Alex Song will screen the defenders behind him while Wilshere will provide him able support in both defensive and attacking work. If Cesc starts, he might play for an hour before he is taken off, to give his legs some rest. Nasri and Van Persie will be carrying the burden of scoring goals, as they are absolutely ‘fresh’ for this tie.

Possible Starting Lineup: Szczney, Eboue, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Wilshere, Cesc, Rosicky, Nasri, Van Persie

Key Facts

1. Robert Green is all set to make this 200th Premier League appearance.

2. Arsenal has scored more away goals (20) than any team in the league this season.

3. West Ham haven’t won against Arsenal in their last five encounters.

4. Arsenal have won just one of their last five games in all competitions.

TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR

Samir Nasri (Arsenal)

Nasri - Needs to play a big game!

Samir, Arsenal’s top goal-scorer this season, has had a fantastic rest before this match. He needs to get back his scoring form, if Arsenal are to bring home all three points. Nasri has scored 9 goals in the league this season.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

West Ham 1 – 2 Arsenal

Though West Ham might frustrate Arsenal in the first half with a lot of resolution, the away team will be just good enough to pick all points and get back to winning ways before the all-important second leg of the Carling Cup.

TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST

West Ham 1 – 0 Arsenal, 2006-07.

Marlon Harewood scored in the 88th minute.

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