Whilst the season didn’t get off to the best of starts for the Gunners, losing their opening three fixtures, they slowly turned their fortunes round.
After back-to-back losses to both Manchester United and Everton, they managed to turn out one of their best performances of the season as they dominated Southampton, scoring three goals and securing a clean sheet.
The game didn’t come without drama though as before the match kicked off, it was revealed that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was out of the matchday squad. Although unlike the Everton game where he was dropped due to form, this time he was dropped for a “disciplinary breach”, and not for the first time during his time with Arsenal.
The question that will be in the tip of every Arsenal fan’s tongues though is which team will show up against West Ham mid week? The one who managed to dismantle Southampton, or the team that capitulated against Liverpool.? Well, let’s take a look at what challenges could lie ahead for the Gunners.
|Last Five Games|
In terms of current standings in the Premier League, West Ham have had the better season so far. They currently sit in fourth place, two places and two points above Arsenal, having taken maximum points in games against both Liverpool and Chelsea this season. However, in their last five league games they’ve picked up one point less, despite Arsenal losing a game more.
And on their last outing, compared to Arsenal’s 3-0 win against Southampton, West Ham’s last game ended in a bore draw versus Burnley. One that left Moyes talking about the standards he expects of his team this season.
“Some of them need to get back up to the high standards if they’re going to remain in this position. I’d rather tell them that than not. There’s no point in me pussy-footing around it and not saying it. I want to win, I want us to play better and a few of them can certainly do that” said Moyes on Match of the Day.
The Gunners’ upturn in form though has made them favourites coming into the tie according to sports betting stats, with many bookmakers offering 11/10 on Arsenal compared to 23/10 offered for West Ham. The problem is, anything can and usually does happen in a derby, where form can often go out of the window. It tends to be a game where sides are a little more hyped than usual, especially the fans of either side.
What may well put the tie in the favour of Arsenal too is the potential return of Aubameyang, who could well be included in the matchday squad for the midweek game. It is understood that the reason for the recent drop was due to returning late from an agreed trip he took, but Arteta won’t be able to afford to keep him out of the team for too long. Because not only does he possess the quality to score goals, we all know how packed the Christmas fixture list can be, and every single available player will have to be utilised in rotation to avoid potential injuries and fatigue.
What do the history books say?
In their last five head-to-head fixtures, it has actually been Arsenal who have been the more impressive. They’ve managed three wins compared to West Ham’s one, as well as a draw in their most recent fixture.
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It’s already mentioned how form can go out the window in a derby, but hopefully Arsenal can take momentum with them from their win. The question is if Aubameyang does come back into the side does he start? Personally, the gamble to leave him out actually paid off, and I’d not change the lineup at all.
I think the only area where you may change things up a little bit, is possibly taking one of the front three off, to play five at the back, with three central defenders and two wing backs. Purely to try and help combat West Ham’s pace and nullify any counter attacks quickly, plus it offers extra security for Antonio, whose strength and ability to hold up a ball, in addition to his goal-scoring ability, will pose a real threat.
If they’re able to do that, I can see Arsenal overcoming the Hammers, but it won’t be an easy task. If the same West Ham turn up that beat Liverpool and Chelsea, we’ll be in for a real physical battle. But it should be a good tie, and I’m going to call it 3-2 to Arsenal.