West Ham v Arsenal
Barclays Premier League
Kick off: December 28th, 2014 1500 GMT
Who could predict that we would enter our last match in a year that brought us so much joy – two trophies after nine years of waiting – watching that ugly behind of Big Fat Sam.
West Ham have enjoyed a great campaign so far – they are just one point outside the Champions’ League zone, they have players like Andy Carroll, Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia that give variety to their attack and Stewart Downing has been already involved in ten goals (four goals and six assists) which is ten goals more than he had had in his whole first season at Liverpool.
Even though Sam Allardyce is known for his heavy emphasis on defending, this time West Ham have a more balanced squad as both their attack and defence are sixth in the league.
On the other hand, we have failed to find consistency this term and make an impressive streak of victories. If we win tomorrow, we will leap-frog our hosts and – provided that Southampton don’t win against Chelsea – return to the Champions’ League zone.
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Given that we’ll play against West Ham less than 48 hours after the game against QPR, there will be some changes in our team.
Our defence might get a huge boost if Laurent Koscielny takes his place next to Per Mertesacker. The Frenchman has been heavily missed but there are some rumours that he might be fit to play against West Ham.
His compatriot Mathieu Debuchy will take his place on the right side of the defence with Kieran Gibbs starting on the left.
Mathieu Flamini should be in charge of protecting our back four and the presence of Tomas Rosicky next to him might be the key to our success at the Boleyn Ground.
Our attacking line, however, might go through a serious makeover. Alexis Sánchez and Danny Welbeck need rest while Olivier Giroud is going to serve a three-match-suspension starting from tomorrow. That means Lukas Podolski – who has either scored or assisted in all of his four matches against West Ham – will take his place in the team – probably on the left wing. Theo Walcott might get a nod down the right flank with Danny Welbeck down the middle. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain might get a chance as a central attacking midfielder even if there is an option with The Ox in the central midfield and Rosicky in the hole.
It should be said that Arsenal have won the last seven league matches between the city rivals. In the last four matches it was West Ham that had taken the lead before we turned the game around. It’s a rather bizarre coincidence that we have won the last two clashes at Boleyn Ground with both the same score-line and the same referee in charge (Phil Dowd). In both matches Theo Walcott scored our second goal of the game.
Tomorrow I expect a difficult game even though Carl Jenkinson is ineligible to play for the hosts. The Hammers will try to use their physical strength in order to both intimidate us and to score a goal or two from the set-pieces so Giroud’s absence might be a huge problem for us.
I’d predict 3:1 for us tomorrow with Walcott, Podolski and The Ox on the score-sheet for us with Carroll scoring the consolation goal for the hosts.
Head to Head
Premier League 15 Apr 2014 Arsenal FC 3 – West Ham United 1
Premier League (EPL) 26 Dec 2013 West Ham United 1 – Arsenal FC 3
Premier League (EPL) 23 Jan 2013 Arsenal FC 5 – West Ham United 1
Premier League (EPL) 6 Oct 2012 West Ham United 1 – Arsenal FC 3
Premier League (EPL) 15 Jan 2012 West Ham United 0 – Arsenal FC 3
Debuchy Mertesacker (c) Koscielny Gibbs
West Ham United 1 v 3 Arsenal