Tough game today I think. With Mikel Arteta ending his football career at Arsenal under Arsene Wenger and beginning his coaching career alongside Pep Guardiola, it’s easy to lose sight of the many years he spent being coached by David Moyes. Not the first name to spring into mind when thinking of quality football managers but Moyes is no fool. Whether or not this season will turn out to be one of his best yet remains to be seen but it’s fair to say he’s turned West Ham into a difficult team to beat. Looking at his squad, a few player names jump out by name alone but in amongst them are others who don’t necessarily have such a recognisable name. We all know about Antonio, Rice and Fabianski to name a few but who was Tomas Soucek before he arrived in London last summer? I’d certainly not heard of him but then I’d not watched the clubs he was on loan at. Now he’s bossing the West Ham midfield. He’s big, strong and dangerous. Many of David Moyes players are physically strong players. Just how they’d have coped with a similar amount of fixtures we’ve had though I don’t know.
West Ham last played a week ago. A tough game admittedly as was ours in the end but they’ve had a week off. Arsenal however played on Thursday night. No complaints of course as we all want the club to be in European but juggling both isn’t always easy. Tierney looked knackered against Olympiakos but I strongly suspect he’ll play again today but at least Partey and Ødegaard had a bit of rest, it’s just a shame they were needed towards the end of Thursday’s game. Luiz, Xhaka and Gabriel have played a lot of football of late, as has Xhaka. So yes, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a few changes today. Saka faces a late fitness test but I don’t think he’ll be risked. If he misses today’s game there’s a strong possibility he’ll miss the international fixtures too. Good.
Holding, Mari, Martinelli, Lacazette, Cedric, Willian, Ryan and even Nelson and Eddie are all available if Mikel Arteta wants to freshen up the squad.
West Ham are unlikely to press us high up the pitch. Their concentration seems to be on being very disciplined defensively with the midfield and defensive lines sticking close together in order to prevent the opposition from enjoying space. It’s up to Arsenal to break those lines, get in behind their defenders and then make them pay. Ødegaard and ESR are our tricksters so let’s see what they can do. When West Ham break after gaining possession, they do so hard and fast. That’s when Soucek, Antonio and Rice can cause big problems. Right back Coufal will be a tougher obstacle for Tierney and ESR than Doherty was last Sunday I’m sure.
The last ten to fifteen minutes of last Sunday’s fixture was poor. Nerves, panic, the fear of losing against that lot – whatever it was, needs ridding of. Staying calm, maintaining composure and keeping things simple will see out out games. Anything else and mistakes creep in. Silly fouls in dangerous areas are foolish. There’s no point in being defensively organised for 85 minutes if a moment of madness undoes it all. Up front, take our chances and take a chance. There’s a reason Arsenal fans had a nickname for the now West Ham keeper so test him early. Better still, beat him early.
I think the game itself will be cat and mouse, Arsenal with a lot of possession with West Ham just sitting back in wait to hit us on the break. We’ve beaten them once this season, let’s beat them again.