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.
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
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.
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:
Sagna Senderos Gallas Clichy
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.
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 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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