Sunday’s draw against Top4 rivals Manchester City was a distinct improvement on the last couple of months in terms of result and performance.
It still was not good enough to improve our chances of reaching the Champions League places though.
With Liverpool winning as well as our North London neighbours, the gap has been stretched again. The mission is clear for our team with ten games remaining – avoid loss and pick up the majority of points available.
This of course will be easier said than done. With a fixture list that contains trips to White Hart Lane and matches against Manchester United and Everton still to come, a winning run of form is mandatory but ever so difficult.
It was made that little bit tougher when club captain Laurent Koscielny limped off in our game versus City. It was an achilles injury that claimed Koscielny, and it looks like he will miss out for this game against West Ham. His long term outlook is looking bleak for the rest of the season as well.
Our midfield against City consisted of Coquelin and Xhaka, but Aaron Ramsey may return to the side, and a popular choice would be to come in instead of Coquelin. The Welshman is more dynamic on the ball and his budding partnership with Xhaka was showing signs of promise. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also in the reckoning, and the England international has been in good form in the centre this season. A Rambo and Ox midfield could be the key to this match.
A key development is David Ospinapicking up an injury. Coupled with Petr Cech already being crocked, it means 24yr old Emiliano Martinez getting a first PL start since 2014 – and a real chance to elevate his chances next season.
One change that could happen is Danny Welbeck being replaced in the striker position. A rotation is well within the bounds of possibility, and that leaves a straight fight between Alexis and Giroud. Giroud has a good record against the Hammers, but Alexis edges it, with four goals and one assist in the last two games he’s played against them.
Arsenal have a great record against their opponents. One loss in the last 17 games means the Gunners will be favourites, but that one loss was in the corresponding fixture last season. With Andy Carroll proving to be a regular thorn in Arsenal’s side, Giroud’s defensive efforts may be better suited to this game.
Slaven Bilic seems to be unable to secure the backing of the West Ham board despite his favourable standing with the Hammers faithful, but the return of Diafre Sakho will boost his hopes of a result. Andy Carroll will no doubt start the game, but Sakho off the bench is an ace up Bilic’s sleeve.
The fight showed against City was a welcome change, and this will be vital to securing points here. West Ham have dropped 20 points from winning positions this season, more than anyone else, so if we go a goal down, a fighting stance could well reap rewards.
With City taking on Chelsea, three points here could ensure we at least stay on the coattails of one of our rivals. Win or bust.
Predicted Lineup; Ospina, Bellerin, Gabriel, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Theo, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud.
Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 Arsenal.