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WHU v Arsenal: teams and the complete preview

By Phil Gregory

Arsenal travel to Upton Park looking to heap more pressure on a beleaguered Gianfranco Zola. The West Ham boss has not seen his team win since August, and sitting three points adrift of safety, Hammers fans will be hoping for, but not expecting an upset.

Recent form:

West Ham are growing desperate for points, but their home form gives no reason for confidence. With losses to Liverpool and Spurs at home, the Hammers record against top six opposition is not one to be proud of this season. Indeed, their only victory in front of their own fans came against lower league opposition, in the League Cup against Millwall.

Arsenal come into this game with their run of successive wins over, with a last-gasp equaliser for Alkmaar ensuring the spoils were shared in Holland. Free-scoring Arsenal, who have found the net in every match this season, will be looking to justify Wenger’s faith in their ability to challenge for honours this season by maintaining the pressure at the top of the Premier League

Injuries:

Arsenal are without the impressive Tomas Rosicky, though it is expected to only be a short-term injury. Niklas Bendtner faces a late fitness test, though Eduardo Da Silva is available, along with Fabianksi and Almunia. Long term absentees include Walcott, Djourou, Nasri and Denilson, although Nasri should be back for the League Cup game against Liverpool this coming week.

West Ham have doubts surrounding Keiron Dyer and Welsh international Danny Gabbidon. Dean Ashton and Luis Boa Morte both suffer with long-term injuries and miss the London derby.

Key men:

He crops up regularly in this section, but in what will be a hostile atmosphere at Upton Park, we will look to Alex Song to assert himself on the game. He did it superbly away in Holland in the week, and he’s looking like a real contender for player of the season so far.

For West Ham, it’s got to be Carlton Cole. He was highly rated when a youngster at Chelsea, but found his path to the first team blocked by Abramovich’s expensive imports. Now though, he’s starting to live up to a lot of the hype, and has won over many of the sceptics, myself included. He’ll ensure our centrebacks have a tricky afternoon, but lets hope he doesn’t manage to add to his tally of Four premier League goals.

Arsenal predicted line-up:

Mannone

Sagna Senderos Gallas Clichy

Song

Diaby Fabregas

Eboue/Bendtner Van Persie Arshavin

Subs: Almunia, Ramsey, Eboue/Bendtner, Vela, Wilshere, Silvestre, Merida

Wenger’s hint that Senderos may be involved implies that he is thinking about resting one of the two centrebacks, and I’ve got a feeling Vermaelen will be the man to get a breather.

I’m not entirely sure why he would choose this match to rest them, given that first teamers will be getting a weeks rest while the kids do away with Liverpool on Wednesday night. Apart from that, I’m expecting a mostly unchanged line up wherever possible as we look to keep up the early momentum. I’d like Bendtner to be involved, I’m a massive fan of his and like how he gives us a route one option on the break if needed.

That said, with the form of West Ham, I don’t  anticipate us having to be at our best, but as the cliché goes, form goes out of the window on Derby Day.

Prediction:

West Ham are a good side, much better than what they’ve shown so far this season. There’s no chance they’ll be where they are now after another ten days: last season they started poorly but ultimately finished fairly strongly. Expect Zola to turn it around, but not starting tomorrow: 0-2 to the Arsenal.

It’s not going to be easy, but both teams are polar opposites in terms of form and confidence and we just have more quality throughout the side. Having played on the Tuesday, the team shouldn’t be tired, and I’m backing them to have the character to bounce back from the disappointment of conceding so late on.

Half time musing:

Where has the whole thing about Chelsea’s squad depth come from? They’ve got no quality holding player (Mikel’s distribution is too poor and Essien’s positioning leaves much to be desired), no good cover at either fullback position, only 2 good strikers and very little on the bench. Then, they’re going to lose a number of first eleven players for the African Nations. Granted, they have plenty of centre midfielders, but apart from that I see a very superficial squad.

That’s me for today, enjoy the match and don’t forget to comment below!

Phil Gregory

Phil Gregory is a 20 year old student at the University of Leeds. Studying Economics and French, he’s been a Gunner since he got interested in football at a young age, and plans on being a regular at the Arsenal away games in the North this season.

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29 comments to WHU v Arsenal: teams and the complete preview

  • Personally I suspect that Senderos will be on the bench – where he hasn’t been at all this season, as far as I recall. I imagine he will play not in this game, but against Liverpool Beachball in the Diddly Cup this week. Silvestre has been sitting on the bench quite a few times, so I think it will just be a swap of who sits down for 90 minutes.

    Really hope we get to see more of Vela game by game, so we get to the time when he is a regular one of our front three.

    Come to think of it, if Aluminum doesn’t play against WHAM then he could play against the Beachball.

    By the way, Walter said in the previous article’s discussion that my scenario for a goal involving a beachball at the WHAM game would count as a goal. First time I’ve ever got one of those crazy goals past a ref!

  • chakravo

    I think – like Mr. Attwood – that Senderos is going to be on the bench. The “hint” you mention was simply Wenger stating that Senderos would recover from injury when he was listing the status of all our injured players.
    I was just thinking today about Chelsea’s depth – or lack thereof – and while I agree that they may not have much depth, I can’t quite believe that you think that Essien is not a “quality” holding player! Of course, when Drogba, Essien, Mikel and Kalou leave for the ANC, it will be very interesting to see what happens.

  • walter

    Like Chakravro mentioned the ANC period will be intresting.
    AW saw what could happen, sold 2 african players and we will only have 2 players missing. Ebou can be replaced by the likes of Walcott – he can’t be injured for ever I hope – or even Wilshere, Rosicky, ….
    Song will be different because the once “never fit to wear the shirt” has proven a giant this season and I really think he will improve even more with time to come. We can only hope that Denilson will be fully fit when the ANC takes place. If not I wonder if AW could go for a suprise and opt for … Vermaelen as a defensive midfielder. He got the skills to play and it wouldn’t be the first time that AW produces a “petit” wonder by placing a central defender in midfield with succes.

  • Simianwolverine

    There is also a chance of Sendy playing in DM position if required. In the pre-season friendlies AW used him quite often in that position and he was not bad. Maybe his tendency of switching off sometimes in the match can be covered in DM position rather than in CB.

  • Simianwolverine – wow what a name – thanks for that point. I had totally forgotten about Senderos in that position. Song is going to miss out soon because of the yellow cards he gets, but we have the option of playing Senderos as you said, and Denilson, and Diaby possibly, and there must be another one somewhere in the reserves – how about Coquelin?

  • AnonymousGun

    Coq will be too inexperience IMHO. Next season, maybe.. if he garner enough experience in CC (provided we goes through)

    It should be Denilson.. then Diaby then Samir for that slot..

    I’m in the opinion that Denilson was the main man marked for that DM slot (With Song his appropriate backup) but was pushed to the 2nd CM slot due to SM/TR not fit yet earlier in the season..

  • Marc

    Nice piece Phil. The subject of your half time musing is becoming a bit of an obsession for me, not so much how ManU, Chelsea, Tottenham even Liverpool at the start of the season are viewed to have strong squads but how we are dismissed as having a small squad.

  • Marc

    Just a stray thought. Does anyone think that Gibbs could cover the DM position for a couple of games during the ACN if Denilson is unavailable?

  • steww

    Marc – yes I think he could do a superb job. We are so lucky having both Song and Denilson who play there with complete aplomb and of course because Arsene believes in total football played by total footballers we have defenders and attacking midfielders who can slot right in too.

  • sedo

    What about Eduardo?
    He is claimed to be fit to be involved in this game at least on the bench I hope. Maybe scoring a late winner just after coming from the bench. Count with him quys!

  • Otariq

    I don’t think this will be an easy game today. West Ham is desperate for Points and will play hard for their manager. I just hope we score early and get going.

  • Phil Gregory

    Mikel is preferred to essien as a holder, says it all really. He’s an athlete, and was sensational in Mourinho’s 3 man midfield with Makelele mopping up. Without that reader of the game behind him, his positioning is too glaring a weakness for him to hold at the top, top level.

    sedo: my bad, Eduardo slipped my mind when I did the write-up. I blame the hangover!

  • anaconda

    : Song is going to miss out soon because of the yellow cards he gets

    This is a good point Tony, however I hope he gets a yellow today, because that will be his fifth in the season and he will miss a game for it. If I am correct, domestic cups count in these games, and thus it would be the Carling Cup game. And he would not play in that anyway.

    Marc, I don’t think Gibbs is very suitable for DM, not yet at least. He’s played in the flanks all his career so positioning in the middle would be problematic. Also he is very very left footed player and almost never does even the simplest of passes with his right. In midfield this can be exploited by the opposition and it looked to me that they did in some of last season games. It is something I’m sure they are working on and for basic passing it’s also a confidence thing.

    The positioning thing also applies to Eboue. For Senderos it is not a problem. His passing is not as good as Song’s but it would be easy to open the game from Gallas or Vermaelen because obviously Phil can slot in when either of them go up. I still think that Denilson, Diaby and Ramsey are ahead of him for DM and Coquelin is right there with him.

    Tuesday will be interesting, Rafa may see it as their best chance for silverware and field a stronger than expected team. In their last CC game, I think Torres and Gerrard were on the bench and came in late in the game. If Bendtner only gets something like 10-20 minutes today, I think he might start at Tuesdays game.

    Exciting game today as well of course, West Ham can be a tricky opponent. Let’s hope that Arsenal is on it’s best form, RvP and Gallas are due a goal I think, so Hammers need to score at least two to get a point 😉

  • pig

    zola was saying in his pre match interview that we are scoring lots of goals and conceding lots too. it didnt take much detective work to find that out, but it is definately our achilles heel.

    i cant see either gallas or vermaelen being rested so we should expect to see them up n down like proverbial yoyos.

    i have a feeling that this forward play is yet another of arsenes little projects that he is perfecting on a game by game basis. last season after a rotten start he concentrated on defence and we went a good while unbeaten.

    i feel that we will get to be more composed at the back while still allowing the yoyo boys to do their thing.

    as has been said before, (ad nauseam) manu only dropped 2 points against bottom half opposition last season. this is a must win match for us, not least so that we can be above the spuds when we meet next week.

  • Diceman

    I’m waiting to see how Coquelin does against liverpool “the beachball” FC. I really think Wenger made the decision not to buy a DM because of this guy. I hope Wenger would use him when he is needed.

    And about squad strength thing, I agreed that the other teams are not stronger than us at all. We only lack one ‘experience’ back up DM, the Djourou thing was unfortunate or else it won’t be a problem at CB. All teams have a place where if one get injured there’s not a proper replacement.

  • Paul C.

    I think everyone is missing another option for DM while Song is away. A couple of years ago we played Blackburn away and Gilberto was sent off. Cesc was joined in the middle by…….Rosicky, who dominated the rest of the match in a defensive role.

    Rosicky is just a class footballer. He could literally play just about anywhere on the pitch. He is smart enough and disciplined enough to play DM and it is only a question of his fitness.

  • steww

    Paul C – complete agreement from me on that. TR7 has made all the difference this season. His injury cost us as much as the sales of Hleb and Flamini combined – in, of course, my humble opinion.

  • kennyg

    what do u guys think of emmanuel frimpong.. i personally think he has a great future and he has great strength

  • anaconda

    As I said, a goal for RvP 😉

    Next up Gallas? Also one penalty denied from us already..

  • anaconda

    Oh God, it’s William Gallas who scores 😀

    I hope I would have bet more money on my hunch this time…

  • walter

    The ref took 2 points from us today.
    It was no foul from Diaby as the player ran in to Diaby himself after Diaby blocked the ball. If he would give a free kick, not correct but if it should have been an indirect free kick for obstruction. He gave a direct free kick. So wrong again.
    The penalty was …. you know honest English gamemanship of English players that don’t dive. But the ref was still under the influence of the earlier dive from another honest English bloke that went down some 1 meter from the nearest Arsenal player, whitout giving him a booking.

    We didn’t lose 2 points today, the ref took them away.

  • diceman1984

    huhhhhhhhh,

    I did say that we need to concentrate at all times, regardless of what the ref did wrong we should have cope better. But it’s not really a bad result you know, win the game in hand then we’ll match man u and be 2 points behind chelski.

    Now, Just beat spuds next week!

  • walter

    I agree diceman. But for the penalty there is not much one can do once given. Just hope the keepers saves it.
    I didn’t feel good about Manone for the first goal. He completely palmed the ball the wrong way. Learning money, but costly. One of the lessons I learned as a keeper, yes I once was a keeper, is to always palm the ball away from the middle of the goal and he did just exactly that.

  • Diceman

    We always ended up at the wrong end of penalty involved incidents lately don’t we?

    Mannone, to me, clearly has better goalkeeping skills than Almunia. I just wonder how would Almunia had cope tonight. But saying that reminds me that without Vito we’d be 3 points worse that where we are right now. And that Green had to stick his leg against that ball huh, 3 inches further away from RVP’s afford would give us the win. Football sucks sometimes.

    I just wish and hope that out bad breaks end tonight.

    Fair play to Zola’s side though, I’ll be cheering for them for the draw tonight against any other team but us, the
    way the at least tried to play and fight til the end did make me feel JUST a little less stomach ache.

  • Cape Gooner

    Walter, you have confirmed what I thought about the free kick. But what about their penalty? And what about ours? Someone has mentioned the handball in the first half, but what about when RvP had the header saved by Green’s left leg? Spector was literally on RvP’s back. Surely that was a foul?

  • Cape Gooner

    Tony, the above comment shows 7:11am. The time here is 8:11, in the UK 6:11, and 7:11 in most of Europe

  • walter

    In short… the refs view.
    Cape gooner you should have known by now that after the Eduardo incident Arsenal will never get another penalty kick unless a player from the opposition takes the ball in his hands and runs all across his own penalty area with the ball in his hands.

    Yes the handball by Upson was a penalty. Upson threw himself to the ball with his hands out stretched. It doesn’t matter than if it is hand to ball or ball to hand, if you stick out your arm to make yourself bigger you have the intention to stop the ball at all cost so it was a penalty. On behalf of the defence of the ref I would like to point out that I don’t think he could have seen it because there was some players standing in the line of the ball between him and Upson. Typing this did hurt my fingers but I try to be honest so on this occasion must give him the benefit of the doubt.

    On the RVP header, to be fair I think the player jumped in his back after the header but if I can bring myself to it, if I haven’t deleted the match om my digicorder, I will try to review it.

    For the Alan – I never stopped hating the Arsenal since 89 – Hansen pundit comment: wrong, wrong and wrong. If the ref should have blown according to Hansen comment: “there was contact so it was a penalty” during his career I think Hansen would have conceded some 1989 penaltys.
    There is no such rule in the lawbook that says: if you touch an opponont it is foul and/or penalty. Then you would have 10 or 12 penalty’s for every team each game. Cole fell to floor because he felt a contact but Song did not kick out at the feet of Cole to bring him down, in fact the contact was minimal.
    It was a nice dive from a nice bloke. Did you see the interview with Cole after the game where he said he had to see it again on tv ? he just meant: I have to see it first because when I say I was really fouled I would make myself a liar. The smile on his face said enough to me. He(they) was searching for a penalty because they felt the ref had fallen to the pressure of the crowd and knew they would get it.

    And for Hansen: I really would like to give him the advice to start a referee course and go and do some games yourself before making yourself ridicoulous with saying what is a foul or not. It’s not because you have played football that you know the rules. I could write a book about the silly interpretations given by players of the rules.
    JC, I said I would be short….

  • anup

    penalty an excuse…the earlier one was a penalty..even so we were pathetic…players were jogging around even after conceding 2nd goal, u won’t see that in case of damnchester utd or chelsea, we lack steel,,b better off without diaby..and dropped points in 3 away games out of 5..let’s hope wenger figures out whats wrong in time, or another trophyless season awaits…

  • diceman1984

    When everyone (including myself sometimes) say that this won’t happen to man u or chelski, I came to this conclusion:

    They’d lose those games instead of going up and then lose the lead. I mean don’t give them that much credit guys, they DID lose points already and though they didn’t lose a lead they just played badly. It’s time for our players to really focus and prove their worth.

    PS: it’s so convenient now after a good long happy run that a draw would give the gloomers bashing rights to bash the team again. All of the sudden many of them popped up around the globe in front of their computers to smack the so called lack of quality in this team. Look at the table and you’d wonder “are we really in crisis?” “being 3rd with a game in hand?” “ohhhhhh we won’t win a thing with this squad, I really wish they wouldn’t ’cause they I’ll have to bite my own tongue and brains”

    It’s very scary when being where we are and our own (so called) set of fans complain and bitch about their own player while giving a lot of cunts undeserved credits. Henry must feel like a little kid believing in this team and Wenger too right? By making stupid statements against Arsenal FC they’re insulting a person like Henry along the way too.