Arsenal shift their attention back to the Premier League when they travel to the London Stadium to face West Ham United on Sunday.
Arsenal sign off for the international break with a trip to London Stadium as they take on West Ham United on Sunday. The Gunners have every right to prioritise the European football, having entered the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League this week despite a 1-0 defeat to Olympiacos in midweek.
However, head coach Mikel Arteta will have good reasons to make a late push in the Premier League table as well, knowing a win on Sunday could put his team back into the mix of a potential top six finish.
Arsenal are currently dawdling at tenth in the Premier League table, but securing three points on the weekend could potentially take them just one point behind their arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur and just four points behind fifth-placed West Ham, with ten games still remaining in the campaign.
The Hammers, though, are hoping to maintain pressure on fourth-placed Chelsea, with David Moyes ambitiously eyeing Champions League qualification to finish the campaign. West Ham, however, have endured a mixed run of form recently, notably losing to the two Manchester clubs in their last three matches, so rekindling a winning form could be crucial in meeting their expectations come the end of the season.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look at how these two teams stack head of their crucial Premier League encounter at the London Stadium on Sunday.
Team News & Tactics
West Ham United
Unlike Arsenal, West Ham United had a solid week-long rest in the build-up to this game, meaning David Moyes’ men have had enough time to prepare for this clash against a side that has shown a lot of attacking ambition in recent weeks.
The Hammers are traditionally a counter-attacking team, though, which means Moyes is likely to employ a defence-oriented setup, perhaps even a four-man backline to mirror Mikel Arteta’s 4-2-3-1.
The change in defensive shape should come at the expense of midfielder Mark Noble, with Aaron Cresswell shifting to a more familiar left-back role, along with Vladimir Coufal on the opposite flank, thus leaving Issa Diop and Craig Dawson to feature at the heart of the four-man backline.
In midfield, Tomas Soucek should return to his favoured role in the double pivot, alongside Declan Rice. These two will crucially form the second line of press for West Ham, using their aggression, physical dominance and work-ethic to disrupt the flow of the opposition in the middle of the park.
One of Soucek and Rice may even venture forward in certain attacking instances, giving the opposition more men to deal with, which, in turn, should allow more spaces for the actual attackers. Speaking of the attacking unit, West Ham are set to be boosted by the return of Jesse Lingard after the Englishman was ineligible to feature against parent club Manchester United last time out.
Lingard is a definite starter in the number ten role, with additional creative support coming from the two wide players in Pablo Fornals and Said Benrahma while the Hammers’ attack will be spearheaded by Michail Antonio once again.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Coufal, Dawson, Diop, Cresswell; Soucek, Rice; Fornals, Lingard, Benrahma; Antonio
Mikel Arteta had made a gutsy decision of leaving Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out of the starting lineup in the north London derby against Tottenham Hotspur last time out. The move paid off as well, as his replacement Alexandre Lacazette starred in the 2-1 victory over the Lilywhites.
As such, the Frenchman might just get rewarded with another start on Sunday, spearheading the Arsenal attack. However, Aubameyang is likely a starter as well, on the left-hand side, where he is likely to get the nod ahead of Gabriel Martinelli, Emile Smith Rowe and Willian.
Arsenal are unfortunately missing Bukayo Saka, who is a doubt heading into this encounter. His absence should see Nicolas Pepe retain his place at right wing, forming the three-man creative unit alongside Aubameyang and Martin Odegaard.
There could be changes in midfield as well, with Mohamed Elneny making way for Thomas Partey, who is set to offer more defensive balance in the middle of the park, perhaps allowing Granit Xhaka to become more expressive in regards to his possession play and overall ball distribution.
Defensively, Arteta has usually rotated between Hector Bellerin and Cedric Soares at right-back, so this might be Cedric’s turn to start, while Kieran Tierney should continue on the opposite flank, not only because of his quality but also due to a lack of an alternative.
The two full-backs will be vital for Arsenal in providing the width going forward, leaving the defensive responsibility on the shoulders of the two central defenders in David Luiz and Gabriel Magalhaes.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Leno; Cedric, Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Xhaka; Pepe, Odegaard, Aubameyang; Lacazette
- Under five match goals and under 3 Arsenal corners @10/11
- Jesse Lingard to score anytime – YES @5/2
- Both teams to score – YES @7/10
- West Ham Unied could lose consecutive league games for the first time since their opening two matches this season. The second of those defeats came against Arsenal.
- Alexandre Lacazette has scored four goals in his past five league appearances versus West Ham, including in his last two.
- Arsenal could register a 12th Premier League double over West Ham, more than against any other side.
- Arsenal have claimed 13 points from London league derbies, more than any other side this season.
- The Hammers have won five of their last six Premier League home matches, including the last three in a row.
Player to Watch
Martin Odegaard is clearly finding his feet in the Premier League, having become a key component in Mikel Arteta’s creative unit, ever since arriving from Real Madrid on loan. His contributions in the number ten role have indeed been critical to the club’s overall chance creation, during the early parts of 2021 so far.
Odegaard was absent in the midweek clash against Olympiacos, appearing only as a second half substitute. On Sunday, however, the Norwegian international is almost destined to start for Arsenal.
The youngster’s influence in the game could be more important than ever as the Gunners cope with the potential absence of Bukayo Saka while Emile Smith Rowe is unlikely to get the nod ahead of Aubameyang on the left flank, leaving Odegaard as the one worth keeping an eye on in this fixture.
West Ham United 2-1 Arsenal
This is a difficult game to predict as West Ham have not collected too many points in the last couple of weeks, while Arsenal are renowned for their inconsistency. And following a nervy game against Olympiacos, coupled with the potential absence of Bukayo Saka, we are expecting the Gunners to struggle this weekend.
While Arsenal are expected to dominate the bulk of the possession, they might get caught on the counter way too many times. It is fair to consider the fact that West Ham have both Pablo Fornals and Jesse Lingard back available, making them slight favourites to collect all three points in this fixture.