Happy Friday. I have to say I’m looking forward to this weekend more than usual, what with Arsenal playing West Ham in the early kick-off tomorrow, Anthony Joshua fighting American Charles Martin for a heavyweight world title belt after that, and then a nice, lazy, Sunday in store to eat, sleep and revel in doing absolutely nothing. Bring. It. On.
So hopefully Arsenal can get things off to a flier and set the tone for the next 48 hours or so by exacting revenge for our opening day defeat at the hands of the Hammers at Emirates stadium.
Judging by Arsene Wenger’s words yesterday, the likelihood is our starting line-up will be largely unchanged, with Petr Cech returning in goal for David Ospina the only realistic alteration. That said, David Ospina been very solid in Cech’s injury absence and made some eye-catching saves so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Columbian kept his place in the side for now.
As for our opponents, while we’re still missing the likes of Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere, they’ll be able to call upon a fully fit squad which contains some genuine quality in the likes of Manuel Lanzini and or course, the outrageously gifted Dimitri Payet. And Arsene gave his take on our opponents when he spoke to Arsenal Player earlier in the week. He said:
They are a strong side and that’s the message they gave us on the first day of the season [when West Ham beat Arsenal 2-0 at Emirates Stadium]. They surprised us with their quality, they have 50 points now and that’s not a coincidence. Overall I believe they’ve sacrificed the Europa League a little bit, surprisingly, but that has paid off for them in the Premier League. They have had a very strong season.
As for his own team, the boss explained why he’s unlikely to rotate at Upton Park, called for consistency from his team after two league wins in a row heading into tomorrow’s match and highlighted the strength in depth of his squad, saying:
What you try to find is always the right pieces of the jigsaw that work. Sometimes you are forced to make changes and sometimes players move up in training and they make steps and statements that push you to give them a chance. When it clicks, it is even more positive. There is an emergence of players that come up and come back from injury. Sometimes, the balance of the whole team clicks and all these players fighting together helps you to find the right blend. The continuity of our games against Barcelona and Everton was collectively [very good]. We respected those games and we had good possession, great movement and we wanted to score goals. Ideally, we combined offensive efficiency with defensive efficiency in that game. We looked quite solid. I think our game is convincing. What we need to show is consistency with the team, and in the last three games I feel our quality was a high level that raises the confidence. On top of that, we have players who have just come back like Mathieu Flamini, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, so the competition is there. Petr Cech is back too. In every position, you have competition, and that is very positive.
With Leicester and Tottenham not playing until Sunday, when they face Sunderland and Manchester United respectively, we have a chance to close the gap on both the teams above us if we can beat the Hammers and exert just that bit more pressure on them ahead of their games this weekend.
With just six more games to play after tomorrow, every fixture is clearly all but a title eliminator so here’s hoping our players are fully focused, can play in a similar vein to our recent wins at Everton and over Watford and keep our faint title hopes alive.
Back post match.