Following on from the wonderful start to the week that was Monday night, Arsenal return to Premier League action on Saturday for the visit of West Ham United.

Back in December we won 2-1 at Upton Park following the Boxing Day game, but this time around we go into the game against a side who haven’t played in ten days.

With nine consecutive wins against The Hammers, and them winless in their last six Premier League games, you’d be forgiven for being confident ahead of the weekend.

But it’s never that straightforward.

West Ham were the first away side to win at The Emirates, and under Sam Allardyce they are generally tough to break down.

Team News

I thought we would see a little more rotation ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Monaco, but Arsène Wenger is adamant that won’t be the case:

“The big priority is of course West Ham.”

Gabriel Paulista and Jack Wilshere are still out, along with longer term absentees Mathieu Debuchy and Mikel Arteta. Mathieu Flamini could be in the squad this weekend, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain won’t be involved after pulling up during the win over Manchester United.

Aaron Ramsey came off the bench for Oxlade-Chamberlain on Monday night, and could be in line for his first start since returning from injury. Theo Walcott may finally get the chance to start again with West Ham expected to sit back, though Wenger will have to decide between him and Monday night’s match winner Danny Welbeck.

Otherwise Welbeck could keep the spot in the middle, to the dismay of Olivier Giroud.

David Ospina is expected to be restored in goal, while Nacho Monreal surely did enough to keep his place in the side.

Possible XI: Ospina; Bellerín, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla; Welbeck, Özil, Alexis; Giroud.

The Opposition

Early season form saw West Ham dreaming of European football next season as we entered 2015. Since the turn of the year, however, things haven’t exactly gone to plan.

Their only Premier League win in the last eleven games came against Hull in January, otherwise they have really struggled.

With an injury to Andy Carroll and a slowing down in the form of Stewart Downing, Enner Valencia, and Diafra Sakho goals have become increasingly hard to come by.

Valencia will miss out at the weekend after dropping and stepping on a teacup, reportedly requiring surgery.

Games in the last six weeks have included a draw with Manchester United (home) while Tottenham needed a stoppage time penalty to snatch a point after West Ham went 2-0 up at White Hart Lane.

The big threat comes from out wide, with fullbacks Aaron Cresswell and Carl Jenkinson encouraged to get forward and whip the ball in. Jenkinson is, of course, on loan from Arsenal and ineligible this weekend.

Winston Reid is doubtful but may be rushed back to face us after signing a new contract this week.

Possible XI: Adrián; Demel, Tomkins, Reid, Cresswell; Noble, Song, Kouyaté; Downing; Valencia, Sakho.


We’re in a great position for the final push now.

Into the FA Cup semi-final, this weekend offers a great chance to secure our place in third – at least for the time being – as Manchester United face Tottenham, and Liverpool play Swansea away (not until Monday night).

Even if it is for just 24 or 48 hours, three extra points over those teams will put even more pressure on them ahead of their games.

Sam Allardyce said on Thursday how much more difficult we are to face on our own patch, and also half-heartedly praised our more solid approach to recent games.

We should be playing with complete confidence.

Four Premier League wins in a row ought to become five on Saturday.