Manuel Pellegrini has stabilised West Ham United after a very rough start to the season. The Hammers started the season with four consecutive losses, but they have got 28 points from their 17 matches since. That kind of pace is the pace of a Europa League level team. While the top six looks pretty set, they could easily slip themselves into seventh based on the way they have played over the last four months. Arsenal have struggled away to that level of team for a few years, so this is a real chance for West Ham to get something from their London rivals.
Arsenal had a rough holiday period. They got only four points from their last four matches of December, including a loss to Southampton and a draw to Brighton and Hove Albion. They started January with a 4-1 win over Fulham, but that stretch left them three points off of the top four. That is far from an insurmountable gap, but their margin of error got much smaller. With that smaller margin of error, they can’t really afford to drop too many points against sides outside of the top six. That makes this West Ham game very important for the Gunners.
West Ham have a whole lot of injuries to deal with. Fabian Balbuena, Chicharito Hernandez, Jack Wilshere, Ryan Fredricks, Carlos Sanchez Winston Reid, Manuel Lanzini and Andriy Yarmolenko will all miss the match, according to Physioroom.com. It does look like Marko Arnautovic will be fit, according to football.london, so that’s a boost for them.
Arsenal have fewer injuries to deal with but are not without their issues. Danny Welbeck, Rob Holding and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will all miss out with long term injuries, according to Physioroom.com.
West Ham United: Marko Arnautovic
While Felipe Anderson has drawn most of the attention this season, Arnautovic is still having a very good season. He has scored seven goals and assisted two more in 1177 minutes. That’s 0.69 goals and assists per 90 minutes, which is very good for a second option on a midtable to Europa League level team. It will also be interesting to see if his head has been turned by the offer he has received from China. West Ham have announced that they will not sell him, but it will be interesting if he lets the interest affect his performances.
Arsenal: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Arsenal may have had a rough December, but Aubameyang certainly did not. He scored five goals and assisted two more in their seven matches and pushed himself to the top of the Premier League scoring charts. His ability to get into good goalscoring positions makes it so Arsenal are always likely to score and always have a decent chance of winning a game against a team outside of the top six.
West Ham have proven that they are a good team this season and Arsenal have struggled away to good teams in recent years. This is certainly a game the Hammers could get something from.