The festive season in football continues with a new round of fixtures right after the Boxing Day games, with West Ham hosting Arsenal. West Ham are coming off a game against Chelsea where they were outplayed and lost by 2 goals, whereas Arsenal managed to not mess up once again by holding on to win 2-1 against Queens Park Rangers.
Team News and Tactics
At the start of the season, if anybody would have suggested that West Ham would be competing for European places at this stage of the season, and would be above more traditional teams like Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool, etc, even the most optimistic West Ham fan would have laughed it off. But that’s exactly where they are right now, and 5th place after 18 games is a fantastic achievement.
However, they will need to continue with getting the results if they are to have any chance of finishing in the top 5. Any slacking now and they will slip down quickly while the other teams take up their place.
West Ham will see the return of Alex Song and Diafra Sakho into the lineup, with both players having missed the game against Chelsea on Friday. Song will want to make an impression against his former club, especially after the way he left the club to Barcelona.
Predicted Line Up: Adrian; Demel, Collins, Reid, Cresswell; Noble, Song, Kouyate; Downing, Sakho; Carroll.
Arsenal are in a state of inconsistency that is showing affects on their season and their position in the table. To think that a few more wins would have put them in a great position in terms of the title challenge is kind of an every season gripe that Arsenal fans and neutrals have about the club. Yet again they find themselves in a precarious position, fighting to finish in the top 4.
Olivier Giroud’s red card presents them with more problems, with the squad already stretched to its limits. This would most certainly mean that Danny Welbeck would lead the line, and a possible start for Lukas Podolski. Of course, we could all be wrong here and Arsene Wenger could once again favour Yaya Sanogo instead, in which case you can be absolutely sure that Podolski will leave in January. The other possibility is shifting Alexis to the left and starting Theo Walcott on the right, a combination that Arsenal fans have been waiting the entire season to see how it would work. This could be the perfect opportunity for the manager to try it out.
Calum Chambers could see a return to the squad, in place of Nacho Monreal, even though Wenger hinted that there is a chance that Koscielny could be back in the team. That would definitely make especially with the FA Cup just around the corner.
Predicted Line Up: Szczesny; Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Rosicky, Flamini; Walcott, Cazorla, Sanchez; Welbeck
Arsenal have not lost to West Ham in their last 12 games in the Premier League, and have won the last 8 games against them in all competitions.
Lukas Podolski has a particular affinity for West Ham, having scored 4 goals in 4 games against them.
Arsenal, as a team, also like to travel to West Ham, having won 10 away games against them, which is more than any other team could achieve.
West Ham were in a good run of form before their game against Chelsea, and might suffer the same dip in form that is being seen at Newcastle United. However, Sam Allardyce may have planned for the game against Arsenal, having dropped Song and Sakho against the league leaders. Arsenal on the other hand would want to win the game and go above West Ham, in their bid to finish in the top 4 once again.
Predicted Score: West Ham 1-2 Arsenal