WEST HAM UNITED
Emirates Stadium, London
April 15, 2014; 19:45 BST
Arsenal FC host West Ham United in what is expected to be a feisty London derby at the Emirates tomorrow. The Gunners will be buoyed by their win over Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup semi-final at the weekend and will now look to regain their place in the top-four after being toppled by Everton.
Arsenal are currently fifth in the league table, two points behind Everton, and are in danger of missing out on Champions League football next season – which will be a big blow to the club’s ambition. The Gunners have been in poor form recently and have won just two of their last seven matches in all competitions. In fact they have won just two in their last nine Premier League outings – a run of form which has seen them fallen out of the title race and now out of the top four. Arsene Wenger will hope that his men turn this around quickly and with Everton facing tougher fixture list, the Gunners might still have an opportunity to claw back their difference with the Merseyside club.
West Ham United haven’t set the world on fire themselves as well and have lost four of their last six matches. The Hammers are not in a danger of finding themselves in the relegation dog fight once again, but it is important for them to maintain their difference with the teams below them and they might even find an opportunity to finish in the top-10 if they manage to end the season positively.
Team news and tactics
Arsene Wenger has to contain with a lot of fitness concerns ahead of this fixture. A lot of first team players are still struggling with injuries, while many would still feel the effect of having played for 120 minutes in the FA Cup semi-final win over Wigan Athletic. Abou Diaby, Ryo Miyaichi, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere continue their spell at the side-lines, while Mesut Ozil is still a week away from returning to first team action. The German international could be in contention to feature in the Premier League clash against Hull City next week.
Mathieu Flamini continues to serve his suspension and remains unavailable for selection in this game. Arsene Wenger has also confirmed that there are doubts over the fitness of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey, who made his first start since returning from injury against Wigan and was made to play till extra-time, both of whom are facing muscle tightness. The duo are unlikely to play any part against West Ham, along with Nacho Monreal, who was replaced in the second half at Wembley with a dead leg.
Tomas Rosicky and Laurent Koscielny missed out the semi-final against Wigan, but the duo will undergo late fitness test to confirm their availability in this game – although Wenger is unlikely to take any risk with Koscielny in this game. Lukas Podolski has also faced muscle problems, although the Arsenal manager expects him to recover fitness ahead of this game, while Serge Gnabry remains out of contention due to injury.
Arsene Wenger is expected to make five changes to the starting eleven he fielded against Wigan in the last game. Olivier Giroud, who made an appearance from the bench, will replace Yaya Sanogo upfront, while Tomas Rosicky returns to the line-up replace the Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is struggling with his fitness. Kim Kallstrom is likely to make his first Premier League start, alongside Mikel Arteta, as Ramsey is rested. There will be two changes at the back for Arsenal with Kieran Gibbs replacing the injured Nacho Monreal, while Wojciech Szczesny starts in goal ahead of FA Cup semi-final hero Lukasz Fabianski.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Szczesny (GK); Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Arteta, Kallstrom; Cazorla, Rosicky, Podolski; Giroud
Sam Allardyce doesn’t have as big an injury list as Arsene Wenger to contain with ahead of this game, but he could possibly be without Kevin Nolan for this game. The midfielder was replaced in the second half of their game against Liverpool with a hamstring injury and will face a late fitness test ahead of this game. But He is unlikely to start in this game against Arsenal.
Marco Boriello and George McCartney, whose last appearance was in the 1-2 win over Sunderland back in March, are still out of contention ahead of this game as they continue their recovery at the side-lines. Good news for West Ham is that Joey O’Brien, who has missed first team action for nearly three months due to a dislocated shoulder, is back in training and could make an appearance on the bench if he passes his late fitness test ahead of this match. James Collins is also available for selection after recovering from his calf injury.
Sam Allardyce is expected to make just one change to the starting eleven he fielded against Liverpool in their last game with Mohamed Diame replacing Kevin Nolan in the midfield. Nolan’s absence will be a big loss for the Hammers as Diame doesn’t possess the same goal threat as the Englishman. But his presence will surely add to the physicality of the side, something which Sam Allardyce has used with great success against Arsenal in the past.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Adrian (GK); Demel, Tomkins, Reid, Armero; Noble, Taylor; Downing, Diame, Jarvis; Carroll
- Arsenal have won six successive league matches against West Ham and are unbeaten in the last 12 meetings in all competitions since a 1-0 home defeat in April 2007.
- West Ham’s only goal in their last five visits to the Emirates Stadium was scored by Jack Collison in a 5-1 defeat last season.
- The Hammers have won seven of their last 13 league fixtures, having only triumphed in three of the previous 20.
- They have dropped 17 points from winning positions. Only Southampton (18 points) have fared worse.
- Arsene Wenger’s side have gone 15 home games unbeaten in the league since the opening-day defeat by Aston Villa.
Player to watch-out for
Kim Kallstrom (Arsenal)
When the 31-year-old was signed on loan from Spartak Moscow in the winter transfer window, lots of eye brows were raised, especially considering the fact that Arsenal signed him despite knowing about his injury. He made his debut against Swansea City as a substitute and then made another appearance from the bench during the FA Cup semi-final win over Wigan – where he showed glimpses of his capabilities with some nice touches and passing. Ramsey’s fitness concern and Flamini’s suspension is likely to hand him his first start for the Gunners against West Ham tomorrow and all eyes will be on the Swedish international as Arsenal strive to regain their top-four place.
Arsenal 2-1 West Ham
We know what to expect from West Ham and Arsenal on the pitch and neither of the side will change their style tomorrow. The Hammers will come out hard at the Gunners and turn it into a feisty encounter. Many Arsenal players might be tired after a long match against Wigan, but will be buoyed by their win in the last game. Expect the home side to win this close game by a narrow margin.