MATCH PREVIEW: Can Arsenal Keep Top 4 Hopes Rolling Against West Ham?
Arsenal has found themselves on a high, after winning two important fixtures that saw them get right back into the driver’s seat of the top 4 race. The Gunners have a chance to continue their run to Champions League qualification as they travel to the London Stadium to take on West Ham.
Exactly what West Ham will look like, remains a mystery. On Thursday the hosts took part in one of the two Europa League semi-finals. The ended that match with a 2-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt. The result means West Ham are still in that tie and its more than likely that David Moyes can usher in significant rotation ahead of the next leg, later in the week.
Of course as with all things Arsenal, even massive rotation shouldn’t be taken lightly. If the last 5 matches tell us anything about this team, its that they have a tendency to play down to competition. Yes, the Premier League may be the most competitive league in Europe but the reality is the three games preceding wins against Chelsea and United, the Gunners really had no business losing. But they did and they did it in classic lethargic style.
Therein lies the trouble a manager has with a team so young. The inexperience in drawing upon the necessary mental resources to win at a critical time isn’t there for the most part on a regular basis. What makes Liverpool so good is they approach every game with the mental focus of (in the words of Al Davis) just win baby. That will take to grow in this Arsenal squad and the last two wins can give them a platform.
Regardless of who Moyes puts out on the pitch, the Arsenal squad must respond. This may not seem like the most important match with a North London Derby on the Horizon but if the Arsenal manage to win this weekend and next, then the pressure is on Tottenham who have to play Liverpool who are in the title race and have everything to play for. Two wins for Arsenal and at least one loss for Tottenham in the next two matches could potentially take some of the pressure off on the North London Derby.
All this really means is that the Gunners have it all to play for. They have to find it within themselves to figure out how to get this final gauntlet of games.
About our Opponents
West Ham set up in a defensive minded 4231 with the focus mainly being on the duality of the Hammers attack and defense. There’s a very clear line between the two, drawn by the very deep lying Soucek and Rice, contrasts the very high pressure line of Lanzini, Bowen, and Antonio. This stark contrast is evident in how they attack – but even more when they defend.
When attacking, West Ham priorities to hoof it up towards strongman Michail Antonio and let him wrestle it out before finding a darting run from his three musketeers. From there it’s either full sprint towards goal, or go wide and seek out Soucek or Rice on the box – or so it has been before. It seems now, that the second runs of the two holding midfielders has been drastically modified to accommodate the fatigue of playing more games per week.
When defending, David Moyes has set up his men to force the field wide vertically. Front four usually hunt the ball in either a diamond formation or, more recently, a 442, with Bowen moving up to join Antonio in a high press. Further down the line, Soucek and Rice usually sit very deep in the midfield, looking to initially turn over second balls, as well as slow down the opposition and force them wide, giving West Ham the time to settle inside the box.
When defending against West Ham, Arsenal should look to shut down Antonio fast, either forcing him to pass backwards or limiting his space to operate in. While Jarred Bowen has been having a very good season, he tend to be most influential in the final third. Limiting his service from transitional play could force him into deeper positions where he can’t gun down on goal.
When attacking West Ham, Arsenal could use the potential fatigue to their advantage and hit West Ham in the channels. Against Eintracht Frankfurt, The Hammers didn’t do a very good job of tracking runners in behind, which also lead to the germans first goal. Furthermore, West Ham was guilty of leaving a lot of space between their high press and their low block, which Frankfurt exploited to get runners in behind. If given the opportunity, Arsenal should look to get a front man running off the should of the defenders.
What the Manager Says (courtesy Arsenal.com)
They have been doing that all season and they have been really good in both competitions. They have a big squad as well, they have many different options to change their players and still maintain their level. So I don’t see that. We have played games Wednesday night and Saturday at 12.30pm, we have managed to beat them, so I don’t think about that.
What we did in the first 20 or 30 minutes of that game (last year away to West Ham) that we put ourselves in a really difficult position. It’s true that we reacted phenomenally well, but we want to start the game in a different way.
Arsenal Record vs Opponent (League only)
51 GP 33W 8L 10D
Goals Scored (Season Average)
Arsenal (away) 1.50
West Ham (home) 1.76
Goals Conceded (Season Average)
Arsenal (away) 1.56
West Ham (home) 1.29
xG per Match (via footystats.org)
Arsenal 1.83 (1.57 away)
West Ham 1.54 (1.66 home)
Referee: Mike Dean
Assistants: Ian Hussin, Darren Cann
Fourth official: Simon Hooper
VAR: Darren England
Assistant VAR: Matthew Wilkes.
Match Facts (courtesy bbc.co.uk)
- Arsenal have won 19 Premier League matches this season, already surpassing their total tally of 18 victories in 2020-21.
- The Gunners have scored a league-high 37 Premier League goals by players aged 23 or under in this campaign.
- Arsenal’s record of 50 Premier League victories in May is the most of any club.
- They also have the best win rate in May, triumphing in 59% of their fixtures (50 of 85).
- Mikel Arteta’s side have won six of their last eight top-flight away matches, losing the other two.
- West Ham have lost a club-record 33 Premier League games against Arsenal.
- The Hammers have triumphed in just two of the last 27 league meetings (D5, L20).
- Arsenal have lost just one of their last 13 top-flight fixtures away to West Ham (a 1-0 defeat in January 2019)
West Ham 1 – 3 Arsenal