Arsenal welcome West Ham to north London on Saturday, so we’ve sought insight on our opponents.
Hoping to maintain a winning start to the season with back-to-back victories in the Premier League, Mikel Arteta sets his side up to face David Moyes’ Hammers with the odds, somewhat worryingly (as ever), stacked in Arsenal’s favour.
The Irons kicked off their own campaign with a miserable 2-0 home defeat to Newcastle, coming off the back of a dire season in which a few vital results in the final run-in eventually spared them from relegation to the second tier.
Losing just one of the last ten meetings, the Gunners secured the double over their London rivals last season, albeit in hardly convincing fashion. However, confidence is at an all-time high since Arteta joined the club, so should Arsenal have anything to worry about?
We spoke to Henry Tomlinson of the Green Street Hammers to get the inside track on the weekend’s opponents, where they’re weakest, strongest and ultimately, what he thinks the score will be.
What has changed since last season that gives you some optimism for the current campaign, if any?
Oh, that’s a tough one. There is very little optimism at around the club at the moment. At the start of pre-season, West Ham fans were expecting David Moyes to try and sign young talent from the Championship as an attempt to build a ‘Red Bull project’ this evidently has not happened, and the club are still yet to strengthen a side that finished 16th last season.
There was one thing for fans to take optimism from and that was Grady Diangana. The academy graduate was brilliant in the Championship last season and looked to carry that form on. Diangana assisted Sebastien Haller three times in one friendly match. But after a couple of matches, the academy graduate was sold to West Brom for £18m.
The sale of the 22-year-old has seen fans go into an uproar against the Board and even some players, including Mark Noble, speak out against the transfer on Twitter. At the moment the most optimism fans have about the club are the constant rumours of a sale to a new owner that can try and fulfil the promises the current regime promised.
The transfer window closes in little over two weeks despite few arrivals in east London, so what are the areas that need addressing for David Moyes this summer?
There are weaknesses in about three areas of the squad that need addressing urgently. Firstly, the Hammers are desperate for another striker. Haller has been inconsistent and Michail Antonio is not a natural striker, the club has sold two in Albian Ajeti and Jordan Hugill. So, there is space in the squad for another striker to come in and provide competition to Haller.
The club are also chasing a new centre-back, Angelo Ogbonna is the wrong side of 30 despite how good he is, a replacement is needed soon, especially as Issa Diop has struggled with his own form. James Tarkowski is the name on everyone’s lips, but he is proving to be very expensive and cheaper alternatives may have to be looked at.
The main position that needs addressing is left-back. Aaron Cresswell has suffered a massive decline in the last three seasons and has become very error-prone. The club’s other option, Arthur Masuaku, is very good going forward and is a brilliant dribbler but is not the best defender. A new left-back could be the difference between staying-up or relegation.
What style can we expect West Ham to employ on Saturday evening?
David Moyes will probably deploy a 4-5-1 formation. The midfield will sit as a flat five when not in possession and convert into a 4-3-3 when attacking. But this is all conjecture, if the team plays as it did against Newcastle, then the Gunners can expect a very slow and unimaginative side that they can easily defend against.
If Moyes does change things, however, West Ham could cause Arsenal some problems. The team are so much better when trust is given to flair players like Felipe Anderson. The Brazilian scored his first goal of the season on Tuesday, and if his confidence grows then we could see Anderson back to his best.
Any standout areas of weakness in the side that Mikel Arteta could look to exploit?
The left-side of West Ham is incredibly weak at the moment. Moyes has favoured Cresswell at left-back and Pablo Fornals at left-mid. The two players lack in pace and with Arsenal’s attack could really cause a lot of issues for the Hammers defence.
The attack also suffers immensely, mainly due to Cresswell’s form. The lack of defensive strength from the 30-year-old means that Fornals has to do a lot of tracking back to help out, meaning when West Ham actually get the ball there is no outlet for the ball to go too.
Who are the danger men that Arsenal should be wary of?
The annoying thing with West Ham at the moment is there are some very good players in the squad but have just been badly out of form. But players like Anderson on their day can really hurt opposing teams.
The main man at the moment is probably Jarrod Bowen, he scored four goals in preseason and constantly causes issues for defences with his bullish style. The right-winger likes to cut-in to make shooting opportunities for himself and is as good at crossing as anyone in the league.
Tomas Soucek is also a danger as he is an all-round midfielder and West Ham are lucky to have signed him permanently. The Czech is great in the air and defending but is also a goal threat, Soucek scored three times last season and two more in the pre-season. For a team like Arsenal that has been searching for a box-to-box midfielder, Soucek would have been a brilliant signing, to fix that gap.
Likewise, who frightens you most in the Gunners’ squad, and why is it Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang?
Of course, Aubameyang is the man, everyone in the league knows how big of a threat he is with his pace and finishing ability. The Gabonese striker signing a new contract at Arsenal is huge and will certainly put some minds at ease for the rest of the season.
Alexandre Lacazette, however, seems to be the dangerman against West Ham. The Frenchman has scored three goals against the Hammers since 2018, It’s almost like he enjoys proving that West Ham should have offered the money that Lyon wanted for him back in 2016, before he joined Arsenal.
It’s been five years since West Ham last won at the Emirates, can you see them getting a positive result on this occasion?
It might be five years since a Hammers win at the Emirates stadium, but last season was West Ham were unfortunate to lose the game. Bowen hit the post early on and it was a very even match, before Lacazette’s goal.
The best West Ham can hope for is a draw and be competitive in the match. A point would be a big step in the right direction, especially with a tough run of fixtures coming up. If Arsenal play how they did against Fulham and West Ham play as they did last Saturday, then it could be an easy evening for the Gunners.
And finally, your score prediction?
3-1 to Arsenal. Lacazette brace, Willian with the other and Bowen to score for West Ham.