Arsenal-West Ham United Match Preview: Same Line-up as the Shield? Walcott or Giroud Up Front?

Which striker (or both) gets the call? 

After a perfect pre-season Arsenal open their league account with a London Derby against West Ham United.  Many Gooners are expecting the summer of good vibes to continue, but we should all remember that our first loss in our new stadium was against this same club.  As we say over here in the States–regarding our own version of hand, er, foot, er, deflated ball (also known as “gridiron”)–On any given Sunday, ANYTHING can happen.

West Ham have been playing Europa League qualifiers–real matches–but with mixed results.  This past Thursday, traveling to Romania with a weakened squad ahead of the PL oopener, the Hammers were dumped from the competition with a 2-1 loss (4-3 agg) to Astra Giurgiu.  It is likely a blessing in disguise as new manager Slaven Bilic would probably prefer to keep his team focused on domestic competition.  Still, it’s his first moment of controversy (if not crisis) and Bilic will be keen to reassure supporters that his team is firmly behind him and can truly compete in the Premier League.

As such, Gooners should expect a stout and well motivated opponent even if it’s one which appears a bit unfamiliar.  Bilic has been charged with breaking West Ham out of Sam Allardyce’s more pragmatic mould and, with forwards Andy Carroll and Enner Valencia sidelined through injury–and Stewart Downing allowed to return to Middlesboro–he will need to find a measure of attacking verve from new sources.  Diafra Sakho should represent the sharp end of the Hammers attack, but who will supply him?  Dimitri Payet, bought from Marseille this summer, is the likeliest candidate but Morgan Amalfitano and Aaron Cresswell should also be watched from wider positions.  It’s a shame that Bilic cannot employ Carl Jenkinson at right back due to loan rules and that the other former Arsenal star who played a big role for the Hammers last season, Alex Song, appears in loan and contract limbo between the East London club and Barcelona while he recovers from an ankle injury.

Instead, the Hammers will probably set out to thwart Arsenal and take their chances on the break.  Adrian in goal is a formidable barrier and Winston Reid is a center back many Gooners wanted to snap up in previous transfer windows.  He’s nursing a hamstring injury but, if he starts, he might be paired with Angelo Ogbanno, who arrived this summer from Juventus.  Bilic, however, might opt for the English experience of James Tompkins or James Collins to try and stop our attack.  Cheikyou Kayoute is perhaps the Hammers best all-round player and will surely anchor the rear of their midfield.

The real question is how will Arsene Wenger attempt to break down the Hammers and get our season off on the front foot?

With his new contract, bringing his salary almost to the level of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, my guess is that Wenger will give Theo Walcott a run out in front of the home crowd.  Olivier Giroud thus likely starts from the bench as might Alexis himself, even though he only rejoined the team last Monday.  My bet is that Wenger reprises his line-up from the Community Shield with the following group:

Bench: Martinez, Gabriel, Debuchy, Gibbs, Arteta, Alexis, Giroud

With the recent news about Jack Wilshere’s hairline shin fracture and the fact that Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky are not quite back to full fitness, we’re looking a little light in attack.  Luckily, Wenger can also push Bellerin and Keiran Gibbs into more forward positions and surely Giroud and Alexis will be raring to go if we need a goal later in the match.  My hunch is that we attempt to control the match through possession while remaining as tight as possible at the back.  Coquelin will thus anchor our midfield and look to cover for our marauding Spanish fullbacks, notably Hector Bellerin.  Movement and covering for one another in the center of the pitch will be the key, with Ozil, Santi, Ramsey and the Ox hopefully happy to interchange with one another in a very fluid midfield.  Whoever starts up top, they too need to be willing to drop deeper and move from side to side to avoid our attack looking static and predictable.

But that’s just my view.  What say you fellow Gooners?  Will AW stick with the group which pegged us to the lead at Wembley a week ago or does he have some tricks up his sleeve?  Might we see some surprises in the starting 11 or in the group which makes the bench?  Could there be some hints about transfer activity which might be revealed via changes in the 18 who suit up?  Finally, any predictions about the match itself or things about the Hammers I may have missed?

On the brink of the new season I have to admit that I’m very excited about our squad and our chances.  With the early start to the season–and the fact that we don’t have to play those pesky and high stakes CL qualifiers–I think our stability and sense of togetherness in the group is much to our benefit.  There’s still time for some transfer business but the squad as it is fills me with more confidence than I can recall for this time of year.  We shall see, of course, and we definitely need to start the season vs the Hammers on the front foot.

by 17highburyterrace

Please note:  After a bit of technical trouble due to a short break from blogging, we would like to offer the warmest of “welcome backs” to member of the Bergkampesque community.  Thanks for all the support!  Please see the previous post regarding participation policy and our hope for your thoughts and predictions for the coming season.  Post them here, post them there, post them wherever you like.  On the cusp of the new season let’s get behind the team and blog like there’s no tomorrow!  

Everything should be functional now and we can get back to the fun (and fright and freakiness) of being Arsenal supporters…

Go on then…

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51 Responses to Arsenal-West Ham United Match Preview: Same Line-up as the Shield? Walcott or Giroud Up Front?

  1. jw1 says:

    “With the early start to the season–and the fact that we don’t have to play those pesky and high stakes CL qualifiers–I think our stability and sense of togetherness…”

    Some have expressed that two derbies and Liverpool in the first 3 weeks was a difficult ask.
    Though not truly traveling until week 3 will allow for a more relaxed mindset– and a continuation at the level of play which the team has performed this preseason.

    jw1

  2. AwayGunner says:

    Fine post 17, and really glad to have the community back. It wouldnt have been the same without you guys..

    Im very compfortable with where the squad currently sits, and for the first time in a long time have real confidance about the season outlook.

    As to who starts up top, i have no idea whats going through Arsene’s mind (these days or any..) but im excited to find out. Eitherway, it’s the gear change that they offer to one another that excites me most as that’s a hell of a lot to ask from any defense..

    Cheers.

    AG

  3. Gooner_Fanatic says:

    Alexis Will start! You will surprised tomorrow when the team sheet is released!

  4. 17highburyterrace says:

    Well, well, Chavs down to 10 men and level again vs Swansea… Courtois got the red and will need to sit next week also…

    Thanks, AG and JW…

    I’m definitely of the mind that avoiding the midweek matches is a very big plus and helps a lot with the transfer business. Instead of leaning on youngsters like Akpom, Hayden and Gnabry–or at least using them to dress and fill out the bench in those matches–we can get them settled at their loan clubs before others become fan favorites. It also allows us not to rush back guys who’ve been struggling with their fitness and missed the pre-season stuff. Watching the matches this morning (my time) some of the teams look far from fully set and/or firing on all cylinders…

    All Swans since the sending off, but they need to watch their backs and be sure they take the single point if not all 3…

  5. 17highburyterrace says:

    Finishes 2-2… Time for Joe-Moo to stomp around a bit in his interview… 🙂 A draw tomorrow puts us only behind Crystal Palace amongst the London teams (given our alphabet advantage)…

    Swans looked pretty good even before the sending off and not missing Wilf Bony much at all…

  6. TotalArsenal says:

    Fab season opener, Seventeenho, and, as always, I appreciate the Hammers background info. Your line up might well be right but I am hoping OG starts as we play so much better with him… but I have said this sooo many times that you all will be bored about it by now. Is this a good game to play them both in a sort of 4-4-1 system with Theo having the freedom to roam as the extra man?

    The good thing about playing on Sunday is that we can heed a warning. The Chavs were confronted by a confident and rampant Swansea and they find themselves with just one point at home and their keeper out of the early season crunch match against the fellow Oilers next week. We need to take WH very serious and play with great passion and control. We have a great opportunity to get three points and get above Chelsea early on: psychologically that could help us.

    Our attacking options remain strong, especially with Alexis on the bench. All our main goalscorers from the last two season are fit and available and Wenger will have to leave a few strong first teamers on the bench, whatever eleven he chooses. Happy days. 🙂

  7. oz gunner says:

    great opening 17. I hope giroud starts too. We’ve got some lovely depth in our squad now and it’s great to see

    Bring on the Arsenal!!!

  8. JM says:

    Referee for match: Martin Atkinson
    Matches involving Arsenal in 2014/2015 season: Chelsea(h) 2-0 Arsenal(a), Arsenal(h) 2-1 QPR(a), Spurs(h) 2-1 Arsenal(a)

    Fourth official: Michael Oliver (the same official who sent off Courtois in the earlier match between Chelsea vs Swansea)

    Players to watch:
    Arsenal: Čech(home league debut for us), Cazorla, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Giroud (5 goals in 5 games vs West Ham)
    West Ham: Aaron Cresswell, Diafra Sakho, Dimitri Payet, Adrián, Reece Oxford(if he makes the team)

  9. Cheers TA & Oz… Oz, anytime you want to write a preview, just let us know… 😀

    I agree with you TA about Giroud ahead of Theo but Ollie’s physical presence is such that he can also do the supersub bit awfully well… At some point we may need to revisit which of the two options is better against which sort of opposition strategy (high line or PTB)… In general it has to be hard for defenses to try and prepare against such different types.

    The two of them together is also a fun thought but then who sits? It would seem awfully harsh on the Ox after his heroics a week ago. My overall thought is that playing in a focused and professional manner–no matter who gets the chances–gives us the best shot at getting full points from each match. It’s going to take a deep squad to manage the ups and downs of the (marathon) season so (ideally) we shouldn’t get overly concerned about who gets the starts in any (one) particular match.

    Easier said than done, of course, and I’m sure I’ll be nervous enough to not need the alarm for the early kick-off… 🙂

    JM, thanks for naming the ref…I always mean to do so, but sometimes I forget. Atkinson was the highest profile English ref last season (CL semi, I think) but not one of my favorites… Generally competent enough…

  10. oz gunner says:

    @ 17

    it’s good having that variety. Giroud against the bus parkers and Walcott against the opposition that play a high line. Just need Benzema too and we can laugh our way to success.

    Exactly right. The season is long and hard. With sports science being where it is at the moment, I’m sure players understand the need for a break (everyone except Sanchez that is). They need to be managed from game to game.

    RB: Bellerin
    CB: Gabriel
    LB: Gibbs

    Having a backline with this much depth is what pleases me the most!

  11. I keep waiting for something credible re: Benzema to emerge but it all seems like nothing but smoke. I believe he would thrive at Arsenal but I just can’t picture it happening…For RM to buy a replacement striker AND finish up the De Gea business just seems too much–even for them. Bale as a CF? I don’t think so…

    That’s just me, of course… 😀 and it doesn’t mean I’m against some good value-for-money signings as the musical chairs comes to a close…

    Depth in the squad and being able to perform at a very high level (i.e., a little luck with injuries) over the entire period seems the most important element. Crazy how short this off-season feels, but I guess we had an extra week with the FA Cup (on top of the early start)…

  12. JGC says:

    Hi all,

    First, welcome back … I appreciated the reasons for the break and, while too busy and oft-lurking, should have said more perhaps… First, this post…

    Imo, good lineup, I think OG up top tho. Counterpoint is we should, and should expect, to win reasonably readily (eg 2-0, perhaps 1-0 but dominant, barring bad luck). So, in low risk, high or low line (as it were), Theo could be up top. Something to watch there.

    Oh, and we will win cuz 17s got the preview blog juju .. 🙂 😛

    As to last post, my predictions:

    A. We will be top three this year and it’ll be closer. All the usual suspects round out the top four (Chelsea, City, United)

    B. No call on relegation but I hope for a massive three league promotion for Accrimgton Stanley in League 2 so Arsenal aren’t default first every year start. Since there’s no Aardvark United, and Aalborg play in the Danish SAS Liga. I guess that’s my surprise

    C. My other big goal is less injuries. We are off pace already on the disappointing JW hit. I’m not as big a fan as others here, but the guy deserves a real chance to really show or go, and now, well, it’s not now. I get shivers of Diaby…. :-/

    Finally, to others comments and to TA/17:

    A. Jw1, I think they are way more professional now and come out well/sharp refardless, and several had tough WC or other qualifiers or Copa games, so, less worried on competition front. My take tho.

    B. GF, welcome and we may see Sanchez. He’s AMAZINGLY fit, but Aw is cautious and this should be a game we win in stride if we are to really compete. So, my, completely uninformed guess is last 20 or so off the bench,..

    C. TA, 17, I’ll try to be more active, but feel free to just demand the odd post. I have to tape games so immediate review is hard but else wise… Happy to contribute though…

    D. VCC, you about? 17 stole my UMF title, are we playing this year? Understand if all are busy as I’m the last to say I’ve free time!

    Cheers — JGC

  13. geoffchase says:

    Oz

    Excellent point… High octane offence wins games, but …. Defence wins championships…

    Cheers — jgc

  14. AB says:

    Good stuff HT, and lots of logic in your line up. Playing Rambo centrally rather that Santi feels to me sub-optimal right now, but is probably the right call to make in the longer term. Walcott or Giroud up front? Well Wenger does like to be consistent, so Walcott is a fair call – my hunch says Giroud though; I don’t think Wenger is ready to make him a number 2 behind Walcott. Rightly in my view. Finally then does Walcott go out wide or start on the bench? It would be tough on the Ox to be benched after last week. I would start Walcott on the bench with Ox out wide, but I would not be the least bit surprised to see Wenger start with the reverse. Whatever the combination, every reason to hope we start the season with a bang!!!

  15. geoffchase says:

    AB

    Good sign of depth. I had forgotten Santi! Hmm, you’re right, there’s him, AR and Ox for two spaces or less when Sanchez returns..

    Good for us, difficult for them if they’re all healthy!

    Cheers — JGC

  16. Admir says:

    Welcome back, people. 🙂 No Bergkampesque would have made a treble-winning season a bit shallow.

    First, predictions. Unless we get a back-up for our Makelele in the middle, we’ll end up second behind Manchester Oilers. So, it’s Oilers, us, Chavs and Manure.

    We’ll keep 14 clean sheets. More than last season but less than we had done in 2013-14 simply because teams across the league are getting more fire-power thanks to TV-money. We’ll score 86 goals due to improvement of Mesut and emergence of The Ox.

    Biggest improvement? Ox. Biggest disappointment? Either Wilshere’s injuries or Alexis’ second season syndrome that I fear the most.

    If we sign Benzema and/or Coquelin’s cover, we’ll score 100+ goals in the league and/or win the league alongside Champions’ League semifinal thriller against Barcelona.

  17. allezkev says:

    Walcott to start is a good shout.

    Interesting post 17.

    Chelsea dropping two points was unexpected and very welcome.

    A good win and a clean sheet would set the tone for the rest of our season.

  18. Admir says:

    Top scorer: Walcott (28 goals in all competitions). Mesut will create, Theo will score.

  19. geoffchase says:

    Oooh, Admir,

    In my bike racing days, on the big descents, we’d say “go big or go home!” … You’ve certainly gone big in your predictions. I like them! 🙂

    Cheers — JGC

  20. JM says:

    Arsenal starting XI (4-2-3-1): Cech; Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny(200th appearance), Monreal; Coquelin, Ramsey; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Cazorla(150th appearance); Giroud.

    Bench: Ospina, Gibbs, Gabriel, Arteta, Walcott, Alexis, Chambers

  21. JM says:

    West Ham starting XI (4-3-3): Adrian; Tomkins, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Oxford, Noble, Kouyate; Payet, Zarate, Sakho.

    Bench: Randolph, Collins, Poyet, Nolan, Jarvis, Lanzini, Maiga.

  22. AB says:

    Gird against a 16 year old CB….., should only be one outcome there…

  23. JM says:

    Reid & Ogbonna are their CBs; Oxford is anchored in their DM and flanked by Noble & Kouyate. Payet is their AM and 2 forwards in Zarate & Sakho.

    Which means Cazorla and Ozil will confront him(Oxford) most.

  24. ‘Morning fellas…early here… Lee Dixon has already used the term “lazy” to describe an Ozil FK… Does that mean I have to take a drink?… 😀

    Giroud gets the call and no Bellerin (not even on the bench)… Early minutes we look happy to let them have a little of the ball to see what their attack plans might be…

    Ox volleys over from a Giroud cross…We’re starting to win balls in MF, just need to string a few more passes together and start testing the keeper…

  25. Not good to give up the set piece goal… We’ve got our work cut out for us now…

  26. Admir says:

    Terrible first half. A lot of passes going everywhere but on target, quite a few poor decisions (Santi, Rambo) in the final third, no space for Giroud and Mesut being anonymous. Kudos to West Ham and Bilić, they’ve been doing their job well. Payet is a hell of a player, it seems.

    It seems Alexis and Walcott will have to save our bottoms in the second half. Remember, we had the very same start of the last season with Hangeland scoring a similar opener for Crystal Palace before Koscielny and Rambo completed our come-back.

  27. Admir says:

    0:2.

    Benzema can’t come too early.

  28. Commentators all over Cech on the 2nd goal but Ox losing the ball and defenders static didn’t help either…

    Worse, since the goal West Ham are looking even more comfortable defending…

    Alexis on but this seems quite desperate now…

  29. Admir says:

    Yes, that’s the problem with the whole concept of The Ox playing in the middle. He loses the ball too often in our own third.

  30. TotalArsenal says:

    Mrs Benzema would disagree Admir. 🙂

  31. Admir says:

    😀

  32. TotalArsenal says:

    It is just one of those games… when it all does not pan out the way you hope and deserve it to be. But if we get one in the next two or three minutes we can turn it around. KTF.

  33. TotalArsenal says:

    I hate it when we play this sort of high tempo: typical season opener sort of game. In a similar game Ox broke his leg a few seasons ago. We are playing with very little composure and control and that suits WH.

  34. Admir says:

    But it wasn’t, TA. We don’t score goals with Ramsey/Cazorla on the wing, the other in the middle and Giroud in the attack. I’ve been screaming about it since that match against Chelsea in April. Statistics agree with me.

  35. TotalArsenal says:

    sorry Admir that makes no sense to me.

  36. oz gunner says:

    agreed TA. Trying a little too hard and it’s affecting our game

  37. TotalArsenal says:

    Hey Oz,

    How is life treating you these days?

  38. oz gunner says:

    busy but great thanks TA. Picked up more teaching this semester and I’m spent. Got home the other day at 7pm and was asleep by 8pm ha. I’m old!

    How bout yourself? all settled into your new place?

    cross that game off. season starts next week

  39. TotalArsenal says:

    hahaha Oz, and of course it is winter in your part of the world now, so all the more reason to dive under the duvet with the missus.. 😛

    We are getting there.

    Of course we should be disappointed about losing three points today but that was a good practice game for all the players. Fingers crossed nobody got injured and I am sure we will bounce back.

  40. The Protector of The Chart of Doom says:

    I don’t have to say anything………………just look at the table !. 😆

  41. JM says:

    West Ham were the better team by taking their chances presented on the day, and deserved their win.

    This was a disjointed performance by us, the whole team should be responsible for the loss.

    There is at least one injury, a pre-match one(muscle injury) to Bellerin that prompted the enforced start for Debuchy. Finger-crossed that it is not too serious (ala Wilshere’s case).

    The next match against Crystal Palace (away) is another tough London derby; we could be ambushed again if we are complacent in our approach like today.

  42. The Protector of The Chart of Doom says:

    Think I`ll have a little gander on Le Grove………….blood will probably exude from my screen !. 😆

  43. 17highburyterrace says:

    TA, I think you’ve got your work cut out trying to find the positives there. It’s most definitely a wake up call and also just one of those days where everything that could go wrong did… West Ham performed very well, up and down their squad, it must also be said… Classy for the Arsenal supporters (who stayed till the end) to applaud them off the pitch.

    I think you’re right about everybody trying to do a bit too much when the ball came their way (rather than the “too little” which is often suggested)… A lot of balls overhit or held just a bit too long; not enough quick passing. Lots of attempts to pass (or run) through the lines rather than work overloads. The team play went out the window just that little bit, I thought… Hammers getting the goal just before the half made things plenty tougher for us too…

    Suggestions about who should play (and where) or about combinations which don’t work do very little for me. We’ve got very good players in the team and these simple, “I told you so,” solutions seem like throwing darts. That said, If it makes folks feel better, then who am I to begrudge them?…

    Finally, I don’t see solutions coming from the transfer market. Really, the team just has to bear down and keep working at it knowing that nothing can be taken for granted.

  44. The Protector of The Chart of Doom says:

    Definitely a wake up call !…………………even the most pessimistic of us…..ME !………thought we were going to hammer The Hammers !.

    Here`s your headline for a match report !………………………………..Time for a reality Cech !.

  45. The Protector of The Chart of Doom says:

    I disagree !……………….spend the money !…………….I don’t care if it`s Bendtner or Benzema !…………………..spend the whole £200M on the one player !.

  46. The Protector of The Chart of Doom says:

    True !, nothing can be taken for granted !……………..especially my granddad had a sex change and became Gran Ted !.

  47. Admir says:

    @TA – just take a look at data. The truth is eye-gauging. The last nine games:

    -Arsenal-Chelsea 0:0, venue: Emirates, Ramsey on the wing, Cazorla CM, Özil AM, Giroud CF,

    -Hull City-Arsenal 1:3, venue: K.C. Stadium, Ramsey on the wing, Cazorla CM, Özil AM, Giroud CF,

    -Arsenal-Swansea 0:1, venue: Emirates, Ramsey on the wing, Cazorla CM, Özil AM, Giroud CF,

    -Manchester United-Arsenal 1:1, venue: Old Trafford, Ramsey on the wing, Cazorla CM, Özil AM, Giroud CF, a half-time without a single shot from our side; a point earned once Walcott came in and Cazorla came out,

    -Arsenal-Sunderland 0:0, venue: Emirates, Ramsey DM, Cazorla CM, Özil AM, Giroud CF,

    -Arsenal-West Brom 4:1, venue: Emirates, no Giroud, Walcott in the starting line-up (a hat-trick actually),

    -Arsenal-Aston Villa 4:0, venue: Wembley, no Giroud in the starting eleven, Walcott in the starting line-up (an opening goal, opponents smashed before Giroud’s cameo being crowned with a goal),

    -Arsenal-Chelsea 1:0, venue: Wembley, no Giroud in the starting eleven, Walcott in the starting line-up (an assist for the victory),

    -Arsenal-West Ham 0:2, venue: Emirates, Ramsey CM, Cazorla on the wing, Özil AM, Giroud CF.

    Conclusions:

    -we have failed to score at home in four out of five last matches at home,

    -the only time we have scored during the sequence was that time Theo Walcott led the attack and scored a hat-trick,

    -we have been poor, slow and not-dangerous-at-all with Ramsey-Cazorla-Özil on the pitch at the same time if Giroud is leading our attack.

  48. TotalArsenal says:

    Interesting theory, Admir, and I will pay attention to the combo of those four and our success on the pitch going forward. If I take the meaningless games out, I reckon your theory looks less strong, but I like that you used stats 🙂

  49. AB says:

    Ay, ay ay! That was no way to start the season, even if past seasons should have prepared us for the possibility at least. But if one poor game is all it takes to return us to doom and the need to tear up the squad then we had better all give up, as they are going to keep happening – albeit hopefully only on occasion! But too much pride before a fall is nothing new, and our young team need to learn the lesson afresh. It does not mean we have a poor squad, lack of leadership, or the necessary drive and ambition to take us through a season. It just means we need to show the hurt, and bounce back strongly next week to take 3 points with conviction. Others will make this sort of slip over the season too, so their gloating will not last long unless we start to make a habit of it. No need for panic, and certainly not the time to start criticising our players – especially the new ones!

  50. geoffchase says:

    Sorry folks

    My bad. Got the score right and Sanchez’s 20 … But, poor mouthed it by saying we should expect twin such games. I hate led the opinion still but … Sigh. Taped and may come out from behind the couch to watch after work.

    Oz congrats on the teaching load? I know the feeling…

    Cheers — JGC

  51. TotalArsenal says:

    new post new post 🙂

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