Arsenal v West Ham United: two opposite strategies



By Tony Attwood

And yes we are back from Australia – got in an hour ago, and so dutifully trying to catch up on the football.   We’re not at the match tonight (the chances being that I would fall asleep either during the match or worse, in the car on the way home.   So if awake it will be Amazon TV.   If asleep it won’t be.   Let’s start with the home and away…

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
4 Arsenal home 9 7 2 0 22 8 14 23
8 West Ham United 9 4 1 4 14 20 -6 13


On that basis it looks like a dead cert Arsenal win – maybe 3-1 to Arsenal.

However a look at the last six games shows a slightly different tale… for now we see a major improvement from West Ham which suggest that they might sneak in a draw, although here we are looking at both home and away games…


Premier League Form (Last 6)
Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Bournemouth 6 5 1 0 16 5 +11 16
2 Liverpool 6 4 2 0 11 5 +6 14
3 Arsenal 6 4 1 1 10 6 +4 13
4 West Ham 6 4 1 1 10 8 +2 13


But what happens if we look at the last six games separated by home and away form

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Arsenal home 6 5 1 0 15 4 +11 16
12 West Ham away 6 2 0 4 8 17 -9 6


Now we see a real difference for as Arsenal have a near-perfect home record in the last six matches West Ham have a mid-table showing for their last six away games, and the goal difference now shows as 20 goals – or three goals a game.

In short we are back to our opening prediction of 3-1 to the Arsenal, or indeed quite possibly 3-0.   Indeed looking at the season as a whole we can see that in terms of goal difference Arsenal are on 36-16 in terms of goals scored and goals conceded, while West Ham are on 31-30.  West Ham might sneak one, but are more than likely to let in two.

West Ham have already had one dip this season in which in a run of six games from 8 October to 4 November then won only one (the league cup game against a weakened Arsenal XI) drew at home to Newcastle United, and lost four games inlcuding one in the FA Cup.   In those four games they conceded 10 scoring four by way of reply.

That is not to suggest they are back to that form but their own recent 5-0 away defeat to Fulham and a 5-1 defeat to Liverpool in the League cup suggests that the squad is not quite as secure or in-depth as the recent wins over Freiburg, Wolverhampton and Manchester United suggest.  They are eighth in the list of goals scored in the League and ninth in the list of goals conceded and that is a fair review of where they are.

The one thing they can say is that they are improving – despite having sold Declan Rice

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
17 West Ham United 2022/23 18 4 3 11 15 24 -9 15
7 West Ham United 2023/24 18 9 3 6 31 30 1 30


West Ham’s main difference is that they have scored twice at many as last campaign by this stage.   So how have they done that?

If we look at Arsenal this season it is clear that Arsenal are sprinkling the opposition goalmouth with shots in the same way as last season.  The figures are within 0.1 of last season.   All that has changed is that Arsenal are being fouled less, probably because of ever better defence splitting passes and faster movement off the ball.

West Ham however have cut their number of shots per game, although they have reduced the number of fouls per game too.

So Arsenal working on shots in the same way as last season, West Ham working on shooting, although without much accuracy.

Let’s pull this together in our normal table.  First 2023/4 – data from WhoScored

Team Shots pg Tackles pg Fouls pg
Arsenal 8.4 16.5 9.8
West Ham 15.7 17.1 11.2

Now the figures for 2022/23

Team Shots pg Tackles pg Fouls pg
2. Arsenal 9.0 14.9 9.8
14. West Ham 13.1 16 9.5


Arsenal, slightly fewer shots, more tackles, fouls at the same level.

West Ham 20% more shots, 11% more tackles, 18% more fouls.

Now that notion of more tackles and more fouls by West Ham starts to look a foolhardy move when with under half the season gone West Ham have already got as many yellow cards as they picked up in the whole of last season..  By comparison, Arsenal have 27 yellow cards – a drop on the 52 that they got in the whole of last season.

To me, what West Ham are doing doesn’t look like a concerted strategy at all.  Of course I might be missing something because they have got double the number of points as this stage last season, and maybe there is a strategy here I can’t see.  If you can see it, please do tell.

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