As the Premier League resumes, West Ham and Arsenal will face each other in another fascinating London derby after a disappointing midweek for both sides in the English League Cup (or the EFL cup).
West Ham United are struggling to find consistency in the league at the moment under Slaven Bilic. With only one win in the last five Premier League outings, including losses to Everton and Spurs, the Hammers find themselves in a relegation battle in December. After their best ever finish in the Premier League era last season, the current demise seems even more dramatic than it would have looked otherwise and West Ham United have put themselves under a lot of pressure with sub-par displays in recent weeks. Having ground out a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford last week, it looked like they had turned a corner but it proved to be another false dawn as they crashed out of the EFL cup after a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Man United. With only a point standing between themselves and the relegation zone, it is time they translated their half-decent performances into good results, especially in front of their home fans.
For Arsenal, the defeat in midweek was nothing but a timely wake up call after a string of poor displays in November starting against Tottenham at home in the North London Derby, Man United away and Paris Saint Germain at home. The Gunners not only failed to win any of those fixtures but also ended up being well short of their best, creating fewer opportunities than the opposition and having fewer shots on target in all the three games. The 2-0 defeat against Southampton in midweek was their first since the opening day drubbing at home to Liverpool but Arsenal need to win on Saturday to keep the pace with their title rivals in this crucial period ahead of the New Year as the games, as they say, come thick and fast.
The key absentee for Bilic would be in the striking department as Diafra Sakho will be out for up to 6 weeks after a thigh injury. Full-back Aaron Cresswell was taken off prematurely by the manager in their league cup encounter at Old Trafford and will be assessed prior to the game, as will top scorer Mikhail Antonio who suffered a groin strain. Mark Noble was rested in midweek and so he is expected to reclaim his place in the middle of the park come weekend. Andy Carroll is also believed to be in contention for a berth in the match-day squad.
For Arsenal, besides the injuries to Bellerin and Mertesacker, it was confirmed that midfielder Santi Cazorla would be unavailable for up to twelve weeks with the midfielder requiring surgery in his ankle, which must have come as a real blow. Arsene Wenger rested nine players in the defeat to Southampton resting the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil but it will be interesting to see if Frenchman Olivier Giroud can make the recovery from his minor groin injury in time to be fit for Saturday’s visit to the London Stadium.
- West Ham were unbeaten against Arsenal last season (W1 D1), something they had not done in a Premier League campaign since 2006/07.
- Arsenal’s last nine Premier League goals against West Ham have all been scored by different players (Laurent Koscielny, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Mathieu Flamini, Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck, Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski).
West Ham United – Mark Noble
As mentioned in the team news, captain Mark Noble was rested in midweek to recuperate ahead of a big game against London rivals Arsenal. His intelligence and experience will come in really handy against an Arsenal side who have been poor in recent weeks especially in the midfield – partly due to the absence of Santi Cazorla. Noble has enjoyed a good season on a personal level, completing the highest number of passes (512) in the squad with the highest accuracy (90%) at West Ham and his ability to keep the ball moving especially in the forward direction will be very crucial for the home side to take the game to Arsenal.
Arsenal – Mesut Ozil
Mesut Ozil has had a difficult start in the Premier League particularly when compared to the previous campaign. The German is not creating enough clear cut opportunities, the like of which we are used to seeing the 28-year old do, almost week in week out for the Gunners. He’s scored 3 goals and assisted once and performed reasonably well in the Champions League but at the moment it looks like Alexis Sanchez is shouldering all the burden, dragging the team across the finish line more often than not. It’s time Mesut Ozil stepped up to the plate and relieved the Chilean of some of the responsibilities and replicated his form from last season in the upcoming months of December through March.
It promises to be the most entertaining game of the weekend, if not the most anticipated. Arsenal needed a kick up their rear and they will be grateful that they were handed one in the League Cup as opposed to the Premier League where they are still in a healthy position to mount a credible title challenge from. Expect them to shade this one like they have been doing, in recent weeks.
West Ham United 1-2 Arsenal