A topic of interest from the mid-week match has been centered around the middle of defence. In that match we saw Vermaelen and Koscielny, who previously have been considered out first choice pairing, struggle to perform. Both defenders have been touted as similar players with their strengths centered around agility and aggressive defending, a similarity that has seemed to diminish their pairing at the back. There is no doubt that they have each played much better alongside Per Mertesacker.
Going into this match, it would be fair to believe that the big German will be returning to the starting line-up, particularly considering the success he enjoyed with Vermaelen in earlier Premier League matches. While he doesn’t have the agility of both Koscielny and Vermaelen, his positional awareness and aerial strengths will bring a different dimension to the Arsenal defence. When you also factor in that Arsenal have conceded five of their seven goals from set-pieces and also that Andy Carroll is set to return for the Hammers, his selection seems almost like a certainty if he has recovered from illness.
Looking at other end of the field, Gervinho is again likely to retain his role of spearheading Arsenal’s attack. Although the Ivorian can definitely be frustrating at times, his tendency to hold up play and direct style of running certainly suits the lone-strikers role in comparison to out wide and there is no doubt he will keep on providing options for our midfielders with his tireless work-rate. You can’t deny he is probably the right choice to start, especially considering he has scored five goals from the last five games.
In terms of other changes, there is the chance that Aaron Ramsey may make his way back into the starting XI on the wing in place of the Ox. Wenger used this ploy against Chelsea and Manchester City in an attempt to flood midfield and gain superiority, but one feels that even without Diaby Arsenal should clearly have the upper hand in midfield and hence can afford some width with Chamberlain out wide. As in midweek, Coquelin is the likely starter in midfield.
If Arsenal can nullify West Ham’s aerial threat, the match should be a comfortable victory. I am optimistic that the Gunner’s will improve their finishing, take their chances and secure all three points.
on Per Mertesacker…
He is better. He came in on Thursday and had a little session. He’ll have a test. It is not certain that he will play.
on the sickness that has affected the team…
It is flu that has travelled from body to body. We have had Coquelin, Vermaelen, Walcott out. But nobody else has it at the moment.
on other team news…
There is nothing else. Wojciech and Fabianski are not back so Martinez will be back in the squad as the second goalkeeper.
on Bacary Sagna…
Maybe he will play on Monday night [for the under-21s]. He needs some games because he has not played for five months. He has been in training for a week now so he should be capable of playing for an hour.
Jenkinson Mertesacker Vermaelen (c) Gibbs
Chamberlain Cazorla Podolski
Arsenal – Gervinho – Although his finishing is still far from perfect, he is in a great run of form scoring five goals from five games. The Ivorian also could have had a couple more assists in mid-week had his team-mates taken the chances he provided to them.
West Ham - Andy Carroll – Considering Arsenal has let in five of their last seven goals from set-pieces, the Englishman is likely to be the danger man for West Ham and will no doubt try give Arsenal problems with the aerial prowess.
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Arsenal to win: 10/11 (1.90)
Draw: 13/5 (3.60)
West Ham to win: 3/1 (4.00
To win: Arsenal- 10/11 (1.90)
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West Ham 0 Arsenal 3 = 16/1 (17.00)