The Boleyn Ground, London
Saturday, October 6, 12:30 p.m. EST
Arsenal will travel to the Upton Park this Saturday to take on West Ham United. Perhaps what makes this London derby so interesting is the fact that Arsene Wenger and Sam Allardyce have a lot of history between them – two men with different footballing philosophies to put it mildly. Interestingly both the teams were involved in London derbies last weekend.
Arsenal’s unbeaten start to the season came to an end as Chelsea beat them in the derby last weekend. The Gunners though recovered from that and went on to defeat Olympiakos in the midweek Champions League fixture. Although the 3-1 scoreline did flatter them, it would have restored the confidence back into the team. Arsenal’s defense after making a good start to the campaign, have now conceded seven goals in their last six match (no clean-sheets) – so is the early season bubble of defensive stability about the burst? This match will certainly provide more answers towards that.
West Ham United have had a dream start to the campaign under Sam Allardyce. The team recovered extremely well from the 3-0 thrashing at Swansea in their second match and have been unbeaten since. Their home form is impeccable and last week’s away win at QPR has seen them rise to seventh place in the table, above Arsenal.
We bring you the detailed preview of this fascinating battle at the Upton park.
Team News & Tactical Brief
On injury front, West Ham has four concerns as of now. Taylor and Collison are still out injured and a return date hasn’t been set for either of them. Joey O’Brien and Winston Reid picked up knocks in West Ham’s last league match against QPR and were substituted in the first half. Winston Reid was literally knocked out by his goalkeeper Jaaskelainen while defending a QPR free-kick. While Reid is expected to be fit, there are still doubts about O’Brien’s availability for this match. Andy Carroll is fit again, but Sam Allardyce is unlikely to put him in the starting eleven straight away. The England international will start on the bench, like he did against QPR.
The only change that is expected in the starting line-up that faced QPR last weekend is the inclusion of Irish defender George McCartney in place of Joey O’Brien in the left back role.
Sam Allardyce’s appointment was met with skepticism from some section of West Ham United fans, as the former Bolton manager is certainly not to known to operate in the ‘West Ham way’. But a promotion last season and six Premier League games later, Big Sam has proved once again that results matter more than style. He has however combined technical finesse with his brand of football courtesy some wonderful new signings this season.
West Ham started off using the 4-3-3 formation this season, but after receiving a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Swansea Sam changed his line-up back to a 4-2-3-1 formation for the match against Fulham and West Ham have been unbeaten ever since (in the league). Kevin Nolan has been in wonderful form playing in the hole behind Cole or Carroll. One gets the feeling that the former Liverpool striker will eventually replace Cole, after he recovers fully. Matt Jarvis and Vaz Te performed well against QPR and it will be an interesting battle to see them go up against the inform Arsenal fullbacks. West Ham would also look to make the most of set pieces.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Jaaskelainen (GK); Demel, Collins, Reid, McCartney; Diame, Noble; Vaz Te, Nolan, Jarvis; Cole;
Arsenal still have a long injury list to contend with. Abou Diaby has once again picked up a thigh muscle strain in Arsenal’s last league match against Chelsea and will be out for two weeks. Polish goalkeepers, Szczesny and Fabianski, are out injured, while Szczesny is expected to return in another two weeks, no return date has been set for Fabianski. Sagna and Wilshere are back in the squad but it will be some time before either of them make a first team appearance. Tomas Rosicky is also expected to return in two weeks time. Per Mertesacker, who missed the midweek match against Olympiakos due to illness, is expected to start once again.
The only expected change in the starting line-up will be the inclusion of Mertesacker instead of Koscielny. Coquelin will once again start in place of injured Diaby.
Tactically Arsene Wenger has stuck to his, now trusted, 4-2-3-1 formation. Gervinho, who has been successfully converted into a center foward, is once again expected to keep Giroud out from the starting eleven. The French international will provide a good option for Wenger, coming of the bench, against a physical West Ham side. Mertesacker’s inclusion will once again provide great balance to the Arsenal back-line. The big German and Vermaelen complement each other well. Mertesacker’s presence will also mean that Arsenal will have a better chance of dealing with West Ham’s long balls and crosses from the wings.
Ramsey looks to be back to his best after scoring a wonderful goal against Olympiakos in the midweek, the Welshman will compete with Coquelin for a place in the midfield. But the Frenchman’s defensive ability means he is likely to get the nod from Wenger in this tough away fixture. Arsene Wenger also has the choice of replacing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with Olivier Giroud in the team, the Frenchman can start upfront with Gervinho shifting to a wide role.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Mannone(GK); Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Coquelin, Arteta; Podolski, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Gervinho;
- Arsenal have lost just one of their last 11 Premier League away games (W6 D4 L1).
- There have been four penalties awarded in the last four Premier League meetings between West Ham and Arsenal.
- Arsenal have won six and lost none of the last eight Premier League encounters with West Ham.
- West Ham have lost just one of their last 16 league games at Upton Park (W8 D7 L1).
- Arsene Wenger has won just two of his nine away games as a coach in Premier League head to head meetings with Sam Allardyce (W2 D3 L4)
Facts courtesy Eurosports.
Players To Watch Out For
Gervinho is experiencing a great run of form after being shifted to a central role. The Ivorian international has five goals in his last five games for the Gunners. Arsenal’s assistant manager Steve Bould has said that he is hoping Gervinho can follow the path of Theirry Henry, another forward who used to operate on the wings early on in his career,
“Number one, he is scoring goals so his confidence is sky high and his link play is gradually improving as well,” Bould said.
“He is still learning his trade. I don’t think he’s played there (in the central role) a lot, but he is starting to learn when he drops deeper and he has set up chances for Santi (Cazorla) a few times already.
“His pace and movement make him dangerous. He can be a top player. If he gets anywhere near Thierry Henry we will take that all day long.” – Bould was quoted as saying, in the press.
Gervinho’s good form has meant Olivier Giroud has had limited opportunities to start in the last few matches. Gervinho is sure to cause the West Ham defense a lot of problems.
Kevin Nolan (West Ham)
The West Ham Captain Kevin Nolan has literally led from the front this season. The former Bolton and Newcastle United player has already scored three goals so far this season. The Englishman is seemingly enjoying the free role given to him by Sam Allardyce. Nolan will have an interesting battle with Mikel Arteta, the anchor man in Arsenal’s midfield. Arteta will have to track the runs that Nolan usually makes from midfield.
West Ham 1-2 Arsenal
It will be a very tight match. Sam Allardyce’s team has historically given Arsene Wenger and Arsenal a hard time. But Arsenal’s performance against another bogey team, Stoke City, this season has showed that they are more than capable of handling physical style of play. West Ham at home are a tough proposition and they have an excellent home record. But Arsenal have enough ammunition to win this, just about.