Arsenal will look to retain momentum in the top-four race in the last five games, starting with a short trip to London neighbours West Ham United.
West Ham United have a huge conundrum to fix ahead of the clash against Arsenal, as David Moyes remains torn between Premier League and European commitments. There is much at stake at the moment, but with crunch games on both fronts, the West Ham manager will have to prioritise one of them after two difficult results.
The Hammers lost further ground on the Premier League table after a late defeat to Chelsea last Sunday, which was followed by a 2-1 home defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt in the UEFA Europa League semi-final first leg. Moyes decided to rest many of his key stars for the trip to Stamford Bridge, which may be the case when he fields his team against Arsenal.
Winning the Europa League is the best way for the Hammers to play Champions League football next season, and Moyes may prioritise the midweek second leg over a league meeting with Arsenal. West Ham are eight points behind the Gunners, having played a game more than the north Londoners. But Moyes will at least look to finish in the Europa League places after the remaining games.
Arsenal come into this clash at the London Stadium in top form after two massive results under their belt. Mikel Arteta managed big wins over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and Manchester United at the Emirates, which gave them a two-point cushion over north London rivals Tottenham in the top-four race.
Those wins came on the back of three consecutive defeats to Crystal Palace, Brighton & Hove Albion and Southampton. Those dropped points took the onus away from the Gunners in the chase to finish fourth. However, with Spurs dropping points in their last two games against Brighton and Brentford, the Gunners have succeeded in opening up a modest lead.
Arteta will hope the optimistic mood among his players remains intact, as Arsenal will target three points at the London Stadium. They will be hoping Spurs lose further ground, as they ideally would like to go into the North London Derby in positive form.
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West Ham United
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On Ogbonna: "Angelo's started some running on the grass, but I doubt he'll be back before the end of the season."
On Diop: "Issa is making a good recovery. There's an outside chance he'll be back before the end of the season."
🗣 David Moyes#WHUARS
— West Ham United (@WestHam) April 29, 2022
West Ham United have plenty of issues in the central defence, and Moyes has a tricky decision at hand. The Hammers will be without Craig Dawson, who got sent off against Chelsea. The English centre-back did play against Frankfurt earlier this week alongside Kurt Zouma, who has made a surprise recovery, well ahead of schedule.
With the Frenchman playing the whole 90 minutes on Thursday and likely to play in the second leg, Moyes will ponder a gamble to include him against Arsenal. The West Ham manager refused the notion of bringing in Under-23 players for a game of this magnitude, while he remains without the likes of Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna, meaning Zouma is the only fit centre-back.
Moyes could opt for a back three, as he did against Chelsea, with Aaron Cresswell and Ben Johnson on either side of the preferred centre-back, which might as well be Zouma. For Sunday, Moyes could rest other players such as Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio and Declan Rice.
There will be a massive shuffle to the team’s shape and personnel against Arsenal. Arthur Masuaku and Vladimir Coufal could play wing-back roles, while former Arsenal goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski will return between the sticks. Mark Noble could be put in charge of midfield duties alongside Tomas Soucek, with the latter a bit overworked in recent games.
Having played against Chelsea and Eintracht Frankfurt, it is difficult to see the Czech midfielder play a full game against Arsenal. However, Moyes does not have much choice and will get on with his selection. Said Benrahma could lead the line for the Hammers, with Andriy Yarmolenko and Pablo Fornals flanking him in an attacking front three.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Fabianski; Johnson, Zouma, Cresswell; Coufal, Soucek, Noble, Masuaku; Yarmolenko, Benrahma, Fornals
Mikel Arteta could make slight changes to the side that beat Manchester United last weekend. This is a must-win encounter for Arsenal, and hence, we will see the strongest possible team on the pitch. There were concerns over the fitness of Bukayo Saka, although the Arsenal manager claimed he has recovered from a minor muscle problem and is likely to feature.
With only five games left in the season for the Gunners, Arteta will likely pick a similar side until the end of the campaign. The only possible change against West Ham could be at right-back. Takehiro Tomiyaso could make his first league start since early January, after recovering from a calf problem, having made a late cameo against Manchester United.
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He could replace Cedric Soares despite calls to put the Japanese international in place of Nuno Tavares at left-back. Arteta will look to maintain momentum with his back-four and retain the young Portuguese full-back.
Mohamed Elneny warrants a place in the middle of the park after two big performances against Chelsea and Manchester United. He will form a double-pivot with Granit Xhaka, which keeps Albert Sambi Lokonga on the bench for now. With the recent 4-2-3-1 shape working for Arsenal, Martin Odegaard will assume the No.10 role.
Arteta could bring Gabriel Martinelli back into the fold and replace Emile Smith Rowe, assuming West Ham field a makeshift defence. The Brazilian has the ability to torment defenders with his pace and ball carrying skills.
With Saka fit, the right side of the Arsenal attack is secure, and his partnership with Odegaard will be key to breaking down the West Ham defence. Eddie Nketiah could be preferred to Alexandre Lacazette once more, with the soon to be out-of-contract strikers providing a selection headache to Arteta.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tavares; Elneny, Xhaka; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Nketiah
- West Ham United are unbeaten in their last six Premier League home games.
- West Ham United have scored in all their Premier League home games this term.
- Arsenal have scored 96 goals in the Premier League against West Ham. Only against Everton (112) have they scored more in the competition.
- Arsenal have been defeated on just one of their five Premier League visits to the London Stadium (W2 D2 L1).
- Gabriel Martinelli has scored in both Premier League starts against West Ham United.
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If rumours of Mikel Arteta naming Odegaard as his next captain are true, then the Norwegian has already passed the big game audition in the last two clashes against Chelsea and Manchester United. The West Ham match presents a moment of pressure and character, with the Gunners desperately needing three points to keep their top-four chase intact.
Against Manchester United, Odegard tormented their backline with some stupendous balls, which indirectly impacted at least two Arsenal goals. After a recent dip in the three prior defeats, the attacking midfield supremo seems to have found his rhythm again and will be the key factor in Arsenal’s ability to break down the Hammers’ defence on Sunday.
West Ham United 1-3 Arsenal
West Ham are playing under tremendous pressure without their centre-backs. David Moyes could include Kurt Zouma to add stability despite the Frenchman’s questionable fitness levels, considering he will need him against Eintracht Frankfurt. A makeshift backline gives Arsenal the advantage at the London Stadium, considering the attacking talents at Mikel Arteta’s disposal.
The likes of Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli could prove problematic for the West Ham defence, along with Eddie Nketiah, who presses well from the front. The Gunners are overwhelming favourites, despite the Hammers being capable of showing robustness whenever needed. Expect an Arsenal victory to keep hold of the fourth place on the table, with West Ham likely to focus their energy and personnel on the midweek clash.