A London derby has a habit of destroying form books and league superiority. No matter where the opponent is in the table, the geographical closeness negates it and the atmosphere levels the playing field.
West Ham are coming off the back of a fantastic 1-0 win over Chelsea at the London Stadium. They were resolute at the back, industrious in the middle and effective up top. They have another home game, and the fans will be bang up for it.
Arsenal, on the other hand, scraped a somewhat fortunate 1-1 draw at St Mary’s, as our awful away record continued.
Southampton may have seen fewer of the ball, but the best chances fell to the feet of Charlie Austin, Ward-Prowse, Redmond and Boufal. We looked ponderous, with precious little movement in between the lines. We were the Arsenal that stutters and costs us points. We’ve seen this incarnation of our side many times, but it never gets any easier to deal with.
Now, we’ve got another away game, against a team buoyed by recent results. We need a performance, and now.
The festive fixture list is cramming games in every three days, so squad rotation will be key. This game comes three days after the Saints draw, and three days before we face struggling Newcastle at The Emirates. We need to keep pace and be ready to punce when our rivals drop points, rather than dropping them ourselves.
So, Giroud’s late leveller saved us from the ignominy of defeat at St Mary’s, and the Frenchman may be ideally suited to West Ham. The Hammers have some big boys in defence, and the presence of Giroud could keep them busy enough for our runners to slip in. Danny Welbeck is another option so we can keep Lacazette fresh.
Jack Wilshere also appeared as a substitute in the draw with Southampton to good effect, and he will be hopeful of a start, either in this game or certainly against Newcastle in the weekend. Much will depend on whether Ramsey is fit after he was limping against Saints in the weekend.
Shkodran Mustafi is still doubtful, so Mertesacker, Chambers and Holding will all be in with a shout for the next few games, as fatigue and injuries bite.
West Ham haven’t won at home against us since 2007. They have one other win since that time, a 2-0 win at The Emirates in 2015.
Aside from those two occasions, it has been a goal fest for Arsenal.
I’d feel confident predicting an Arsenal win, but I’ve no idea what Gunners side will show up. We seem unable to string more than two victories together with regularity, and that is exactly what we need. It is our away record that is severely hampering us however.
Two wins on the road in the league is concerning. The 5-2 win over Everton was great, and the 1-0 win at Turf Moor was heartening, but we too often look brittle or we choose the wrong approach to the game. Our home attack is full of verve, and West Ham, if faced with the same, would struggle to keep us at bay.
So, we may make some changes, but it is not the lineup that concerns us too much. It is the style we showed in our draw with Southampton, our loss to Watford, to Stoke, to Liverpool. We need to eradicate this version of us if we are to keep pace with the Top4.
Predicted lineup – Cech, Holding, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerin, Wilshere, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud.
Predicted sccoreline – 3-1 to The Arsenal.