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EPL Match Day 23: Arsenal v West Ham United; Match Preview

I remember reading an article on being a Boston Sports fan and how it was similar to going through “battered wife syndrome.” You would get beaten down and then get right back up. You get just enough from someone to keep you warm and fuzzy only to have your heart ripped out again. beaten down. It is how I feel about supporting this current incarnation of Arsenal.

I remember reading an article on being a Boston Sports fan and how it was similar to going through “battered wife syndrome.”  You would get beaten down and then get right back up. You get just enough from someone to keep you warm and fuzzy only to have your heart ripped out again.  beaten down. It is how I feel about supporting this current incarnation of Arsenal.

We’ve discussed before that I try to approach each match as a new experience, a new view of the club – ever optimistic that we’ve turned a corner and today is the day we move forward. Some days the lofty expectations are met, others, well like the battered-wife syndrome,  you get knocked down. Now some of you would probably argue that I am blindly following my team. Maybe. But it is how I gauge being a supporter rather than being a casual fan. If you can get up every day after times of excrutiating and pain and support your team anew each time, then you are a supporter.

But to my point –  that is why today – at the Boleyn Ground in London, I am optimistic at Arsenal gaining ground on league leaders Manchester United.  The foe today is London is rival West Ham United. They are simply put a team in turmoil. The worst move they made was firing Gianfranco Zola at the end of last season. Zola made West Ham fighters and I felt they were capable under his direction of nipping points from teams. They were handfulls for us under his care. Now with Avram Grant leading, not so much. As a matter of fact, this match could be Grant’s last in charge as the press are already reporting that after the match Grant will be replaced by Martin O’Neill.

As for their team itself, they only boast one player in the squad who has scored against Arsenal, Carlton Cole. They are on a run of good form of late winning 4 of their last 6 matches and they look like (if Arsenal can beat Ipswich on the return leg) the potential opponent for the Carling Cup final. Finally, Wayne Bridge (he of John Terry fame) makes his debut for the Hammers after securing a loan move from Manchester City.

For the Gunners we are set to redelpoy what I have classified our “A” team. This is the squad that handled both Chelsea and Birmingham and I think represents our best squad and best hopes. The only exception is at right back where Emmanuel Eboue gets one more run out in place of the suspended Bacary Sagna.

Eboue is not someone I really want in this positon and if I were advising Wenger, I would say that we need a RB sub as much as we need a CB. Frankly Eboue has been abysmal all season and his best role has been cheerleader-in-chief. He can’t defend, his passes are off, and the piercing runs he was using to effect last season are gone. We have a triple threat player and unfortunately not in a good way. That means extra duty for Johann Djourou cleaning up after Eboue. Which in essence makes a little nervous.

Djourou has been stellar since his return. He has stablized the back four and they currently are in the top 5 defences in the league and that only improves on the road. His partnership with Laurent Koscielny has blossomed as well. Koscielny is playing to his strength of reading the play and focusing on the ground battles while leaving the aerial battles to Djourou. The support for each other has been solid and it has shown – in the lowest amount of shots allowed and starting to lower the goals against average of the team as well.

With the likes of Nasri and Van Persie back in the lineup, creativity is restored and our attacking options are substantial. Fabregas loves this group, with he and Nasri building an intuitive partnership that is starting to closely resemble Barcelona’s Xavi and Iniestas. No, they are not there yet, but they are getting there.  Time will and playing together will only tell. And If Van Persie’s shot starts hitting the target he too will offer Fabregas yet another substantial target to give the ball to and that will be necessary going forward.

I am hoping that the Gunners adopt a wounded animal mentality and really go for the juggular against West Ham. I don’t expect today’s squad to be complacent. The grouping on the pitch gets it and comes out and plays unlike the grouping that features, Bendtner, Arshavin, and Denilson at its core. Our “B” for whatever reason, lack of talent, lack of time together, lack of playing or whatever, don’t show the same ability to creatively open up a team.  You’d argue that the “a” team doesn’t either after failing to score against City. True, except for the fact that the Gunners solved the City puzzle only to have the wordwork wind up being the best keeper in the match. This group will open up a defending team. The have the experience, patience and skill to do so.

The biggest news on the pitch today for the Gunners will be the Szczesny gets another EPL start with Fabianksi still having shoulder issues. The younger pole has shown – so far – he is the real deal. He is confident in his play. He commits to every thing he does and plays so big. Its uncanny for a plyer that young to have the wherewithal to play like he does. I am glad the Gunners retained him. It is surely one of the positives with the squad. Its clear he has a bright future with the Gunners and we may be witnessing its start right now. Let’s hope he keeps grabbing the prize and going for it.

How the Match Should Play Out:
I think we should expect Arsenal to come out flying especially after two very lacklustre performances  by the “b” team. Look for them to test and see how West Ham are planning to set up. If it is a parked bus then the Gunners need to score early to force them to play open football. Which is what I think they will try. The urgency we saw inthe last few minutes of the Ipswich match will be on display early in this one as the Gunners look to put West Ham and Avram Grant out of their misery.

Players to Watch:
Arsenal: Theo Walcott. Theo gets his 100th appearance for the Gunners today if he starts. He has really come into his own this season and with the exception of the odd weak dribbler he seems to have shown more of the promise we all thought he would display when he came over from Southampton.

West Ham: Robert Green. Well not to be upstaged by Walcott, Green will be making his 200th EPL appearance today. He was responsible for the United States winning their WC group. Let’s hope he’s responsible for Arsenal moving closer to United.

Probable Starting XI:

Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Sgana (suspended – 1) Squillaci (thigh) Fabianski (shoulder) Diaby (thigh) Almunia (ankle) Frimpong (knee), Vermaelen (Achilles)

West Ham: Obinna (suspended – 3) Collison ( knee)  Edgar (knee) Kurucz (knee) Da Costa (ankle) Dyer (thigh) Hitzlsperger (thigh) Ilunga (muscle problem) McCarthy (calf)

Leading Scorers:
Arsenal: Nasri13 (9 league) Chamakh 10 (7 league) Walcott 9 (6 league)

West Ham: Piquionne: 7 (5 league) Parker: 6 (4 league)

Last Meeting: (EPL)
Arsenal: 1 (Song ’88)

West Ham: 0

Last 5:
Arsenal: LWDWD

West Ham: DWDWL

Goals For:
Arsenal: 1.8 (away)

West Ham: 1.3 (home)

Goals Against:
Arsenal: 1 (away)

West Ham: 1.5 (home)

Goal Difference:
Arsenal: 20

West Ham: -16

Match Officials:
Referee: Andre Marriner
Assistant referees: Simon Beck & Andy Newbold
Fourth official: Lee Probert

Broadcast Information:



GAMEDAY CHAT: It’s Open!!!!!!

YAMA Prediction:
Arsenal: 2

West Ham United: 0


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