Wednesday night’s Premier League action features a London derby as West Ham United make the short journey to take on Arsenal.
The Gunners approach the fixture in sixth place, having fought back from behind to rescue a point against Manchester City on Sunday, but failing to capitalise on Manchester United’s Saturday draw.
Meanwhile, the Hammers, continue to slide dangerously towards relegation on just 33 points and could do with a repeat of this fixture last season when they won 2-0.
For the reverse, this campaign, when Arsenal made their first trip to the London Stadium, Slaven Bilic’s side were dismantled by Alexis Sanchez who scored a 14-minute hat-trick as the home fans saw their team lose 5-1.
Both sides have been in poor form of late, Arsenal having won only two of their last six league games, losing three, as Arsene Wenger has faced increased criticism, from fans and sections of the media.
Bilic has faced arguably greater questions over his future, with the club’s board releasing a statement at the weekend, claiming full support of their manager:
“The West Ham United Board feel it necessary to announce that we have 100 percent (sic) faith in Slaven Bilic’s ability to lead West Ham United”.
Such a statement is never a good sign and often arrives shortly before a sacking. It will be interesting to see if the club keep their word, especially if the side continue their run of four consecutive defeats. The Hammers have failed to win in their last six matches, scoring in each of the four losses but shipping far too many goals.
Both managers have routinely stuck with a 4-2-3-1 formation this season, and there is no reason to expect a change here. Bilic has kept his preferred formation even when it has failed to produce results, fitting different personnel into it when injuries have forced his hand.
Recently, Danny Welbeck has started up front for Arsenal, with Sanchez starting deeper, but the Chilean should return up top considering his three-goal haul against the Hammers in December.
Arsenal West Ham United
Arsene Wenger is again forced to call upon his second choice goalkeeper, David Ospina, as Petr Cech remains absent with a calf injury, picked up in last week’s defeat to West Bromwich Albion. Laurent Koscielny faces a late fitness test after coming off at half-time with an injury on Sunday.
West Ham face more serious problems, with centre-back Winston Reid absent since before the international break. Pedro Obiang (Ankle) missed Saturday’s defeat at Hull City and Wednesday’s game arrives too soon, whilst Angelo Ogbonna is still unavailable, due to his injury at the start of February.
Bilic’s most worrying personnel issue is Michail Antonio, who withdrew from international duty with a hamstring problem and remains a doubt. The club will, however, be buoyed by his return to training on Monday. Striker Diafra Sakho could also make the squad, having finally rejoined the team after sustaining a back injury in November.
Verdict: Arsenal 3-1 West Ham United
West Ham look bound for a relegation fight after giving up a lead at Hull on Saturday and seem certain to concede more goals on Wednesday night.
Arsenal certainly have their own problems and desperately need a victory to sustain their challenge for a top-four place. Wenger’s side should be positive in their approach due to the demolition of the Hammers earlier in the season, and their impressive head to head record; they have won nine and lost only one of their last eleven meetings.