Saturday night prime time, Arsenal v West Ham for the world to watch. My partner is not keen on that at all but it is the new way, and I may just about get away with it. The Hammers are coming to THOF and we should be wary of the wily Moyes who has been regularly able to profit from being the underdog against the ‘bigger’ teams. We will be favourite for this one but Arteta has stated clearly, and logically, that he is expecting a very hard match.
Having watched the game v Fulham again yesterday, what impressed me the most was the control, systemic approach and calm we had. The Cottagers had set out to press us deep and used two rows of three players in OUR half to do this. The plan was to give little space to both Xhaka and Elneny and to force us into mistakes. But we stayed calm and Xhaka orchestrated us out of the trap time and again, and Elneny proofed once more to be a very tidy safe pair of hands. Our third goal came from such a Fulham high press – a carbon copy from the one v Pool – and teams will become weary to commit so many players forward against us. It’s this systemic approach and the way we took our chances that is giving us real hope for this season.
The Hammers had a bad start losing ‘at home’ to the Barcodes, but they did manage to beat lower league Charlton in the League Cup this week so may have a bit more confidence in the team. I have a feeling that Moyes will go the opposite way of Fulham and invite us into their own half, with the hope to spring a counter on us, although I am not sure who their ‘fast men’ would be. The likes of Noble, Fabianski and Rice will be well up for this of course, it being a London derby, and I hope we treat it as a cup game – one that we must one – from the start.
The line-up is exciting as Luiz is in full training and may be fit to play today. Many key players are fit and there is competition for places. Just don’t go and injure each other during the warm-up, boys! It would be nice to see a couple of eager youngsters getting a chance at some point in this one. The likes of Saka, Nketiah and Nelson need to feel they are part of the ‘core 18’.
The biggest question is whether to stick with the wall of Xhakelneny or go with the potentially more adventurous Xhakeballos. I would start with the former to keep it tight and solid in midfield, but I know many fellow Gooners would prefer to inject the added invention and forward runs by the loanee from the Los Blancos. That would work for me too, but for now I prefer to keep it solid and count on one of our attackers to make the difference whilst earning a blank sheet: let their net ripple and ours stay tight!
My Preferred Line-up: