Friday, October 5, 2012

Preview: Arsenal vs. West Ham

Possible Lineups:
Arsenal will line up in their usual 4-2-3-1. With Diaby out due to a hamstring injury, we may see Ramsey slide back from an attacking right-sided position to a central position alongside Arteta. Coquellin was given the start alongside Arteta in the Champions League in midweek but against a West Ham side that lacks a strong creative presence in the center of midfield, Arteta should be fine occupying the holding midfield role on his own. Ramsey will provide more going forward than Coquellin. Despite a run of relatively unimpressive performances, Oxlade-Chamberlain will likely be given the start on the right. With Andy Carroll expected to be given the nod at center forward for West Ham, expect Per Mertesacker to replace Koscielny to provide some height at the back.

Expect West Ham to line up in a 4-2-3-1 that operates more as a 4-5-1 when Arsenal are in possession, with the two wingers dropping back alongside Diame and Noble to form two banks of four. Jarvis looked lively on the left wing in West Ham's 2-1 win over QPR Monday but, against Arsenal, Sam Allardyce may opt for the more defensive Matthew Taylor. O'Brien and Reid both picked up knocks in the QPR game. Reid is expected to play while O'Brien's status is less certain- we could see George McCartney replace him at left back. Andy Carroll is expected to be given the start after he returned from a hamstring injury Monday.

West Ham
  • O'Brien (McCartney) and Demel will likely be fairly reluctant to join in the attack when in possession so as not to leave spaces behind them for Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain to counter into.
  • Diame, Nolan and Noble will all look to shuffe the ball into wide areas to the wingers Vaz Te or Jarvis (if he plays). They'll try to either hit an early ball into Carroll towards the back post or take on the Arsenal outside backs and then cross. When West Ham do look for Carroll at the back post, he'll have the option of either going for goal himself or knocking the ball down. Nolan will look to get close to him to win the second ball.
  • West Ham's back four will play long balls directly into Carroll. When they took this direct route Monday with Carlton Cole at forward, Jarvis would cut in from the left wing and run behind Cole to get on the end of a flicked header. 
  • The Hammers will try to win as many free kicks as possible. They'll hoof the ball in towards Carroll from set pieces anywhere on the field and look to get on the end of his knock downs.
  • The Gunners should dominate possession the center of midfield.
  • West Ham will likely play a 4-5-1 in defense with the wingers dropping back to form a bank of four with Diame and Noble. Jenkinson and Gibbs should be brave with their offensive positioning, getting into advanced positions and pushing the West Ham wingers deep into their own half. This will leave Carroll isolated when West Ham do recover possession. They'll be forced to knock it long towards Carroll and hope he can hold possession until the midfield transitions forward.
  • With Gervinho at center forward, Arsenal will be very flexible in the center of the park. Look for Cazorla, Gervinho and Ramsey to find pockets of space in between the lines to get on the ball. They'll play short combinations of passes and look for seams in the back four to get in behind. They could find it difficult against a crowded back four.
  • Arsenal have to improve their set piece defending. Three of the four goals they've conceded in the Premier League have come from set pieces and in West Ham they're facing an opponent who thrives at scoring from deadball situations. Koscielny was largely responsible for the two goals conceded to Chelsea last weekend and in all likelihood he'll be replaced by the taller Mertesacker to provide some height. However, despite his 6'6" frame, Mertesacker's aerial ability has at times been suspect. He'll have to be diligent in aerial challenges with Carroll.

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