There is no doubt we will be going into this game with a spring in our step. Fresh from our morale boosting win at the Theatre of Playacting, and the general feel good factor surrounding the club, it seems that we have turned a corner.
But with Arsenal nothing can be assured, West Ham is as important as Old Trafford away.
Let’s focus on Sam Allardyce’s side, the masters of Allardysation (the art of playing Rugby and convincing people it’s Football) and put Monaco on the back burner for now.
Olivier Giroud vs James Collins
In the absence of Winston Reid and Tomkins, who dislocated a shoulder, West Ham defence looks weak. Reid is such an integral part of West Ham’s defence and his absence is a big blow. We were linked with him consistently before he signed a contract extension with the Hammers.
Giroud didn’t start at Old Trafford and given West Ham’s aerial prowess Giroud should get the nod. The Frenchman is in scintillating form and will no doubt be looking to add to his league tally of 10 goals.
In the absence of Tomkins and Reid, West Ham may have to field a patched up back four. If Giroud and the Arsenal midfielders can isolate Collins then the Hammers could be in for a long afternoon.
Theo Walcott vs Aaron Cresswell
It’s clear that there is something going on between Walcott and Arsene Wenger off the field. No doubt it’s his contract negotations but this time though Arsenal have the upper hand. We are well placed and Walcott is no longer sacred.
Arsene Wenger’s snubbing of Theo at Old Trafford was right in my opinion. He’s not the guy to bring when you are protecting a lead. However if he doesn’t start him at home to West Ham, the writing is on the wall.
In contrast, Cresswell has been excellent for West Ham this season and his crosses and runs into the box are dangerous. That said, he’s also good defensively.
Walcott needs to cement a place in the starting XI, and in order to do that must be more industrious. He should help young Bellerin at right back and contribute by getting more involved. Just making runs in behind is not enough, and it is not enough to get a place in this Arsenal side. You have to earn it.
Arsenal defence vs West Ham Long balls
While there’s no doubt that Arsenal will be the ones doing the attacking and West Ham the dirty work, it’s very important that the Gunners don’t do ‘an Arsenal’ at the back.
We have seen time and again over the years how we concede on set pieces. Allardyce’s men will be looking to deliver crosses every time and unsettle our backline. In the reverse fixture Szczesny did a magnificent job of taking command of his area. Things have changed somewhat since and it’s likely that Ospina will start.
The Colombian is one of the shortest keepers in the league and how he deals with this physical test will be interesting and incredibly important.
A win today and we will be 6 points clear of fifth placed Liverpool who play Swansea at the Liberty tomorrow. With United welcoming Tottenham and Southampton travelling to Stamford School for Theatrics and Dark Arts (Head Master Mourinho and School Captain Mr. Terry), today’s result could be crucial.