Match day. A game against a West Ham side that is just ahead of us in the league table. Looking up won’t be where we will find our opponent for today, come the end of the season. The league table is a bit false after just 6 games played this season, something we should be very aware of after what happened with us last season. West Ham haven’t lost at home yet this season and that’s something which we don’t have after last week. Hopefully, we’ll be able to change the first part of that sentence.
To do that we’ll need a big improvement on our defending side of things. Especially when dealing with set pieces, a part of the game which we have struggled of late. As is customary with any Sam Allardyce’s team, they tend to use their physically and looks to exploit any aerial weaknesses that we might have. Andy Carroll will be tasked with the primary job of keeping our centre backs on their toes, even if he might not be in the best shape of his career, his physical threat cannot be underestimated.
One of the improvements that a team can do from one game to another is to make changes to the personnel involved. Thankfully for us, Per Mertesacker looks likely to give us that option should be prove himself fit for today’s game. It’s slightly weird to be worried about his fitness when we have Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen both available. Yet, the duo have been lacklustre in the last 2 games while Mertesacker has been in imperious form prior to his illness. The German’s presence will provide that bit more organisation to our defensive play.
I have not seen much of West Ham this season and the only match I managed to catch a glimpse of was the thrashing they handed to Fulham, a match which marked Carroll’s debut for them. West Ham made full use of their direct play and we’ll have to be wary of the runners hoping to get at the end of the on loan striker’s flick ons. None more so than Kevin Nolan, who looks like a reborn player under the manager who knows him best. Matt Jarvis and Ricardo Vaz Te have pace out wide but such is the form of our full backs that I won’t be losing much sleep over that.
This will be the final game before the players leave for their respective national team duties, those that are selected anyway. In which case, it would be quite hard to believe should Arsene Wenger decide not to go with his full strength side. In almost all positions, the team selects itself. Perhaps the only big question mark is in midfield. Whether the manager will have one eye on the physical battle and keep Francis Coquelin in the starting line-up or give the non armband wearing Aaron Ramsey a return to the central midfield role.
I think it will be the former instead of the latter, with Ramsey once again being given the task of being the additional man in midfield, though starting out from the wide position. That should see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dropped to the bench to join a Theo Walcott, who is getting to know the bench more and more. Not used from the start but very good options to have from the bench and ones blessed with pace that could be utilised against tiring oppositions in the second half.
A player whom I will have an eye on, is Lukas Podolski. He has had a mixed start to the season. Shone at the start of the campaign and contributing with his fair share of goals. Then he looked anonymous against both Manchester City and Chelsea. Comparatively, one could say that against the big sides, he has struggled a little bit. West Ham are not and will not be considered one of the bigger sides in the league and chances are, Podolski will be looking to contribute once again.
Up front, with the return that Gervinho is giving us, it would be hard to make a case to drop him. One point could be to utilise Olivier Giroud’s heading prowess and physicality to neutralise that part of the home side’s threat. That said, I think the Ivorian will get to retain his place and give us another viewing of how his finishing has improved.
It won’t be an easy game tonight, it’s almost always tough at Upton Park or Boleyn Ground or whatever you want to call it. We’ll have to be ready for the battle because if we are not, we will definitely not win this match. Big Fat Sam will pour through his dossiers and statistics of us to prep his team for this match. Above all else, we need a win to get us through the international break next week.
Up The Arsenal!!!