Arsenal v West Ham – Focus and Go Fourth
Arsenal face West Ham tonight off the back of coming from a goal down to beat Wigan on penalties to reach the FA Cup final just three days ago.
Jordi Gomez looked to have given Wigan a shot at retaining the trophy, but Per Mertesacker levelled with seven minutes to spare before the Gunners booked their date with destiny by winning on penalties.
As for West Ham, their last outing saw them narrowly defeated by Liverpool at Upton in a game full of dubious decisions, including Andy Carroll’s controversial goal.
West Ham face Arsenal knowing a win would pull them certainly out of any supposed relegation trouble.
The corresponding fixture on Boxing Day needed Theo Walcott to save Arsenal from defeat after Carlton Cole’s opener.
West Ham’s last win over Arsenal came when they first played at the Emirates Stadium in 2007. Since then, Arsenal haven’t been defeated by West Ham in 12 attempts and this fixture last season saw West Ham start brightly. They took the lead, only to be thrashed 5-1 in a spirited performance from the Gunners.
West Ham’s main threat will be the presence of Carroll up front. His controversial goal and all-round performance against Liverpool showed signs of his earlier Newcastle days: a big, tall, strong nuisance that can cause trouble for any defence. He scored at the Emirates in a 1-0 win for Newcastle in 2011; his only goal against Arsenal in the red side of North London.
Can West Ham end their torrid run against Arsenal here tonight?
Arsenal lock horns with West Ham after completing a battling 120 minutes of football to reach the FA Cup final and win on penalties against Wigan on Saturday evening. Arsenal were far from their best and fell behind to Gomez’s penalty before Mertesacker drew the capital club level with just minutes remaining. Arsenal went onto convert all of their penalties to reach their first major final since being stunned by Birmingham in the 2011 League Cup.
Arsenal’s 3-1 win at Upton Park in December seemed to have shown critics that they can win ugly or at least battle back from being a goal down. But since being mauled and demoralised by Liverpool in early February, they’ve never really recovered to a full extent.
A 6-0 drubbing by Chelsea on Arsène Wenger’s 1000th match in charge of Arsenal completed a miserable two months in a critical period for the Gunners and they’ve even been stripped of their fourth place by Everton.
Having won just twice in nine games since being battered by Liverpool that day, tonight is pivotal that they win and keep up the pressure on Everton in the race for the final Champions League berth in the Premier League.
It’s hard to imagine Arsenal and Arsène Wenger without Champions League football. Can they battle back and reach qualification?
Having played two hours of exhausting FA Cup action on Saturday, the Arsenal players will no doubt be suffering from fatigue.
Olivier Giroud, Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny could all come back in but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nacho Monreal and Lukas Podolski are all doubts.
For West Ham, Kevin Nolan has a hamstring injury and faces a late fitness test while Joey O’Brien returns to training. Marco Borriello and George McCartney are both out.
Although Arsenal will have played 120 minutes more than West Ham, I do think that they will overcome the Hammers tonight. Bookmakers currently list Arsenal as favourites, suggesting they are 4/9 to win and they will be on a high following a brilliant FA Cup win, and their morale and confidence will be a little higher than prior to the semi-final.
I expect Arsenal to play their passing game and this will too much for West Ham. 3-0 Arsenal.