Ahh man am I hungover. Started off with a stein at lunchtime and it slowly descended from there. So I’m feeling a bit fragile this morning.
Don’t make my day worse Arsenal, please, I’m begging you.
City made light work of Leicester City as we thought and so it means that if we want to restore our margin the we had at the beginning of this weekend, we have to go to the London Stadium and pick up all three points, which will be no easy task. That’s because West Ham are a bit of an enigma of a team. They have put in some pretty shoddy performances this season, but when you look at the talent they have in their ranks, they should be a heck of a lot higher in the table than they are. They should probably be in the top ten with the likes of Rice, Paqueta, Antonio and Scamacca all good players.
And David Moyes welcomes a few of those back today I suspect, having rested a few of them against Gent, so they will have fresher legs than I would have expected them to have when I was looking at this game earlier in the week. Perhaps if Moyes was another 10 points better off he’d have put more eggs in the Europa Conference League competition, but because West Ham are very much in a relegation scrap, he’s shuffled his pack so that they have more first teamers ready for today.
And we need to be ready for them, because I have a bad feeling those West Ham players – along with their fans – will get massively up for this today. If we are going to have any chance of winning this game we will therefore need to start fast and – fingers crossed – score early. If we do that then it could be a good day. But if they score first then we could have a vociferous home support that galvanises a side desperate for points to get away from the bottom three.
The stats tell us that West Ham don’t score many though. They average 0.9 goals per game which is the fifth worst in the league, but they don’t really give up many chances; according to fbref they are the fifth best in the league in terms of xG against them. They’re seventh in the league for launched balls and rock bottom for total passes that they make. So the hope is that if we can deny them any space in our defensive third, we could potentially shut them out. But we have to do that; we have to be ready and prepared to get the basics right defensively and not give up as many big chances as we did for Liverpool last weekend.
What the numbers also tell us is that West Ham sit the deepest when defending of anyone in the league. The average distance that they have a defensive action from their goal is the shortest in the league; that tells me that they’re going to be tight, compact, look to hit us on the counter and focus on being difficult to break down. We need to be wary of the counter.
Then it all comes down to our forward line and for me that will be the same as last weekend. It’s harsh on Trossard but you can’t take any of Martinelli, Jesus or Saka out of this side and you have to hope that they can unlock what I fear might be a stubborn West Ham defence. In midweek Moyes deployed a back three and I was listening to a podcast yesterday morning which suggested he might do the same again today. If that happens then I am expecting West Ham to sit in and probably double up on Saka and Martinelli to stifle them in wide positions. Earlier in the season we saw Newcastle do that really well, as well as Everton adopt a similar tactic, so those players need to be wary of that approach that might be adopted to shut them down from causing West Ham issues.
The upside for us is that we have more options now than we did with the draw at home to Newcastle and with Everton away. Nketiah may be back fit, but it is Jesus who provides with that little something different and my hope is that with him in the side the approach for West Ham – and other teams we play this season – is that it is no longer a case of shut down Arsenal’s wide forwards and you nullify their attack, as I think a few teams did a couple of months back.
Jesus has scored three goals in his last two games and is looking up for it at the moment. I hope that he does the same this lunchtime.
That’s your lot from me today. As ever we’ll be talking all things Arsenal and the game today on the Same old Arsenal podcast from 7.30pm tonight. If you want to join us you can do so here.