After our comfortable win over Blackpool we return to Premier League action, with a trip to the London Stadium to take on West Ham United.
It also sees two coaches who duke it out who are rather familiar with each other. Unai emery and Manuel Pellegrini are old La Liga rivals, and their first bout against each other in England saw the Gunners run out narrow victors - a lesson that Emery is keen to learn from.
We came out on top to the tune of a 3-1 scoreline back in August, which was also Emery’s first PL victory, but the scoreline was a little kind on Arsenal.The game had plenty of chances for both sides, and if the Hammers weren’t so profligate, we could have shedded a fair amount of goals. Pellegrini has had more time to settle in since then, but so has Emery, so this game has the potential to be a real firecracker.
West Ham not only have a capable coach, they’ve also got some dangerous players capable of slicing us open in attack. So it’s pretty lucky that we have some returning personnel that can bolster what is our weakness.
Some good news, we have a few players available for selection.
Another dose of good news - five of them are defenders!
Captain Laurent Koscielny, Hector Bellerin, Konstandinos Mavropanos, Nacho Monreal and Shkodran Mustafi are all fit and raring to go, and Emery could well chuck a couple of them in straight away, with Bellerin being highly likely to be given a start, given Lichtsteiner’s struggles.
Mesut Ozil is also back from his knee complaint, and how dearly could we do with the German’s playmaking interventions. Ozil last played in our draw against Brighton where he was hooked at half time, and we lacked any serious penetration without Ozil’s entrepreneurialism around the box.
Now that these players are fit, we are only missing Henriklh Mkhitaryan, Rob Holding and Danny Welbeck, with the latter two out for the long term. It also means we have nearly a full squad, with very little excuse for sub-par performances.
Player to Watch
It would have been Marko Arnautovic, but the Austrian is subject to transfer scrutiny after a high bid from a Chinese club was turned down by West Ham. With a wantaway player, they will never produce their best, so the man we need to keep tabs on is the Brazilian, Felipe Anderson.
The Hammers record purchase is enjoying a rather excellent first season, and has been responsible for goals and the making of them. Long rangers, lurking in the box, a great touch, and lungs to burn, Anderson could be the key to the home team’s chances.
Knowing our luck though, it’ll be Samir Nasri.
How will the game go?
Pellegrini is getting his side playing some expansive football, but it does hinge on Anderson. Or at least it did, until Nasri signed. The Frenchman is back from a ban and was plunged straight into the lineup, telling everyone that he is ready to scale the heights again after a few years in the wilderness.
We need to keep both quiet if we are to overcome our London rivals. We will create chances, West Ham aren’t famed for their defence as much as we are but they still aren’t exactly formidable at the back, they’ve kept two clean sheets to our one.
We do have history on our side though. We are unbeaten at the home of the Hammers since 2006, West Ham are also without a win in the league in the last two games, so aren’t in great form.
This game has goals, and plenty of them. We need to start both Aubameyang and Lacazette in this one, and if Ozil is truly ready, we could really do with him behind them. We can outscore them, and if we get a decent headwind, perhaps two goals to the good, then we can suck the life out of the home support.
This has the potential to be a real drama for us, or a huge boost if we win with a shedload of goals. I’m plumping for option 2.