Morning folks. Happy Friday – hope you’re all good?

We did an interesting pod last night with Alan Alger and Anthony Gale (son of Tony Gale, ex-West Ham player), which was a match preview, a bit of discussion over xG and its uses, as well as the over celebration discussion that has been rumbling on this week. You can have a watch here if you fancy it.

We’ve got a couple of days until we face off against West Ham and Arteta will take to the press conference room at 1.30pm today, but what surprised me about what Anthony (West Ham fan) said about his club, was how uninspired he was right now. He said he’d been seeing a trajectory that was downward at West Ham for some time now and it really caught me out if I’m honest. His general thought was that for some time the performances have been not that great but they’ve been picking up the odd result here and there. He cited the Burnley game back in November as one, he didn’t really talk about the game at The Emirates specifically but he referenced matches in which the fans have not exactly been happy with the football, but because they’ve been picking up points the West Ham fans have been begrudgingly accepting of what is happening there. He also predicted that we’d beat them 4-1 on Sunday.

I don’t think I can see that. I’ll do more detailed musings about the game over the next couple of days, but this really surprised me, because I thought Moyes would essentially get this season as a free pass given that he won them a trophy last time out. But I guess it goes to show you how long fan favour lasts when results aren’t coming your way.

In a way we can see similarities in the end of Wenger’s reign. In 2016/17 we managed to pick up a memorable FA Cup win after the Mertesacker Cup Final. Things had been declining for a while and we’d finished fifth for the first time in his stewardship. The following season it was sixth, the stadium was half empty at times and the club announced his departure with a month or two to go before the end of the season. It feels like that with Moyes right now; last season he was the trophy hero, but if their form continues to slide then he’ll not be getting that new contract that I’m sure he’d love.

Of course Arsenal coming to tow offers a ray of hope; we love to give hope where sometimes there is none. Just look at Fulham’s form when we played them: In the three matches prior they’d lost all three, not scored a single goal and conceded eight in the Premier League. Since they’ve played us they haven’t won a game in the Premier League and they’ve also been knocked out of both domestic cups!!

So the fact that West Ham go in to this match on Sunday having lost to Man United, drawn to Bournemouth, drawn to Sheffield United, lost in the cup to Bristol City and drawn to Brighton, doesn’t really give me too much comfort if i’m honest. In fact, you can probably guess when their last win was: Away to us at the Emirates over Christmas. At that time they were up to sixth, just three points off the Scum and things were looking good. Perhaps after the run they’ve had it’s a bit of a surprise that they’ve only dropped one place down to seventh since then, but I guess that shows how teams across the league drop points so regularly.

The main point I’m trying to make here is that even though a West Ham fan isn’t confident, their form isn’t great and apparently the football is painful to watch at times, Arsenal need to still be absolutely on their A-game on Sunday. We know what we will be up against: Low Block FC. West Ham will look to replicate what they did against us at the Emirates and probably the closest recent example we have to look at to see how the game will pan out was the Brighton game they played at the London Stadium on 2nd January. West Ham essentially ceded possession to Brighton who had 69% of the ball. Brighton had 22 shots and eight on target and I’ve read a couple of match reports. They all say that Brighton struggled to break West Ham down, that West Ham seemed happy with the point and that it was hardly a classic by any means.

I think we all know what we’re in for on Sunday and it’ll mean a lot of patience from everyone at The Arsenal. In the home game it was 75% Arsenal, 30 attempts on goal, eight on target (sound familiar to that Brighton game, eh?) and it was a tough night. Against Forest we had another tough watch in the end and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the narrative that plays out follows one of those approaches. So Arteta will hopefully be asked in his press conference today how he intends to break down West Ham and whether he has any specific plans. He won’t share them, as we all know, but if he even just says “yep, we know what we’re up against and we’ve been working on some things” that will give me a great deal of comfort ahead of the game for sure.

The other thing that Alan said, which was interesting, was that he was at a football conference and Zinchenko was there telling people he was injured and wouldn’t play at the weekend. If that’s true then it’ll be a big blow, but it also means that we have to hope that Tomiyasu is ready to come straight in to the team. Kiwior did well against Liverpool in that second half, but Tomi would be a better and more experienced option there. He played for Japan last Saturday when they went out to Iran. If he had the next day off, maybe travelled back to Japan to do some interviews on the Monday, before getting on a plane on Tuesday, then we might be alright. He’ll have had Wednesday and Thursday to recover from any jet lag, which means today he will be in training and the club will be able to take a look at him. If Arsenal have today and tomorrow in training and he’s back and has no knocks, then I’d be tempted to get him in. But I doubt we’ll get any confirmation of that today and it will be down to the back channels and ‘inside scoops’ to show whether Tomiyasu got some minutes in at London Colney this week. Let’s keep our fingers crossed with that one.

And with that I’ll pause for today and say my goodbyes to you lovely people until tomorrow. Catch you then.