- West Ham United vs. Arsenal
Premier League preview
We travel across London to the London Stadium near Stratford, for the first of two London games this week.
West Ham was unlucky not to get something from the game at our place in September. We won 3-1, but this scoreline flattered us to some extent.
And this game at their place won’t be easy. Manuel Pellegrini is a top manager, and certainly no “banter man” – he won the Premier League at Manchester City, and was only let go there due to them wanting Guardiola. He also won a couple of league cups there, and has some pedigree without question.
Another point is that the Irons are on a good run lately, and have improved since the early season. Pellegrini will look to have a game plan and exploit our defence, and this is something we need to be wary of above all else.
Their defence is as weak as ours, and of course, this is something we need to exploit. But then they will be feeling buoyed at their home, and we need to ensure we obtain all three points in this capacity.
- Pellegrini game-plan
Given the weak state of our defence, Pellegrini knows that the best chance to win this game is to hurt us there. He will use pace, physicality, and power to try and press us at the back and in midfield. It is thus vital we form means to counter this – and get in their faces as much as they may do to us.
Emery to his credit is more adept at assessing opponents than Wenger was. And no, that’s not to discredit Wenger. But then this needs to be reflected in not only the formation we play but the patterns on the pitch.
- Maitland-Niles in the midfield
It’s time that Ainsley is played in his proper role – in being a midfielder who has acceleration, pace, and energy. We lack ball-carriers in the middle, and I feel he could be vital here in getting past their press and attacking their defence.
He excelled in what was, of course, a hiding we obtained at Anfield. West Ham won’t be on Liverpool’s level, and he can thrive again here. He needs consistent game time to prove his quality, and in his preferred position.
Given their bad defence, they would likely fear both Laca and Auba together. It’s imperative both start, as we need the win, and this could be the difference between the Irons and ourselves. They have good attackers, but nothing on our level.
Whilst this may unbalance us defensively, I think we need to play both at the back here. Bellerin is arguably our most improved player this season, and we need him firing in this game.
Monreal is always consistent, and he could add a calming presence at the back.
Would Ozil return? Whether he is ill or not is moot. Whether he and Emery don’t get along is moot too. What we do know is that he hasn’t been selected in some games, but then this could be one in which he does. And if he does, we need a big performance from him.
If not in this game, then the Chelsea match could see him return. All the same, if Mesut does start, it’s opportune for him to stamp his authority and get back in the good books of some, especially as this fixture is crucial for our top four hopes this season.
Would Ramsey start? Does it make sense for him to start? One must commend Ramsey’s professionalism since he could well just go on strike, or cause issues behind the scenes since the club doesn’t want him. But he’s done well whilst playing, and with his impending move to Juventus, and playing alongside Ronaldo no less, he has arguably bigger and better things to move on to.
I must say that he perhaps shouldn’t start here. This may seem odd, but then this is a player we don’t want – and is moving to another club (and a bigger club to boot, let’s be honest). Why then utilise him as a crucial player?
A place on the bench may suffice, but then it’s possible that Emery may include him in the squad.
With their prospective game plan in mind, this could be one means to get the win here:
Bellerin Sokratis Mustafi Monreal
Torreira Guendouzi Maitland-Niles
Aubameyang Laca Iwobi
This is a very mobile midfield, which can counter their pressing and potential physicality. Moreover, Laca and Auba could both join in the press when needed, and Iwobi and Maitland-Niles, together with Bellerin and Monreal’s width, could provide transitions and counter-attacks.
WEST HAM UNITED 1-2 ARSENAL
I think it will be a tight game, and I cannot see a clean sheet. But our attacking prowess overrides theirs, and this should be enough to get the win.