Match Preview: Arsenal look to stake claim in battle for top 4 as West Ham visit Emirates
Arsenal look to resume their campaign and maintain their chase for European spots as they welcome David Moyes and in form West Ham United to the Emirates. If Arsenal manage to secure all three points from this match it would see them move into the top 4, a place not many would’ve predicted they would hover around this season.
The task though isn’t easy and arsenal as they are prone to do, do not make things easy on themselves. Their win against Southampton this weekend was perhaps their best “complete” showing of the season, but the start still showed a side needing to grow in confidence.
Their visitors are the perfect example of team that believes and buys into 100% what the manager is trying to do. They aren’t blessed with a starting XI high quality players. They have talent in the squad, but most aren’t names you’d expect to see at the big clubs in the Premier League. Still, they are playing well, and they can hurt Arsenal.
Taking on West Ham
As mentioned above, West Ham are playing, are well coached and have presented better teams than Arsenal challenges this season.
Against Chelsea, where they would go on to win 3-2 they set up in to match Chelsea with a 3-4-3 shape. It’s a departure for them because they typically set up in a 4-2-3-1 with support around Antonio. For this match up we should like expect a return to the 4-2-3-1.
They opted to let Chelsea have the ball (68% possession) and rarely got into Chelsea’s half. West Ham set up to be stubborn and invited Chelsea to come into their final third and try and break them down. This is going to be an issue for Arsenal who have lacked any movement in the half spaces to try and open up opponents.
West Ham were fortunate a few times in that they did tend to play too narrow at times giving space to Reece James to drive in crosses. It’s something Arsenal could exploit with a look to latch on to a late run like we’ve seen from Odegaard lately.
We should also expect to see that when we are trying to build out from the back that both Bowen and Antonio will try and press the defenders into making long passes. This is where we are going to need our midfielders to be locked in to be the easy outlet from that press.
Playing a long vertical game plays into West Ham’s desire to hit on the counter and trying to isolate Antonio in 1v1 races with defenders. The problem is as we mentioned it leaves them sitting very deep and narrow.
The best way to shut down West Ham is keep them playing a defensive game, deep and narrow in their half. Let them have the high-risk passes to Antonio, Arsenal just need to engage him earlier and win the battle for second balls. Additionally, they need to be wary of the threat Bowen posses in making off the ball runs.
Arsenal and the Middle of the Pitch
Simply put the best way for Arsenal to attack and pressure West Ham is to use the middle of the pitch, driving centrally and moving it wide when they get into the final third.
That does present a problem for Arsenal as the play in the midfield has been a source of frustration for many. The key issue has been the two deep lying midfielders (typically Partey and Xhaka) inability to come into the open spaces between the press and offer themselves as options to the CBs.
It’s this lack of midfield movement that in our opinion forces most of Arsenal’s attacking play to be wide at the onset. If you read Tomiyasu’s comments in the press yesterday, he spoke about how playing wide to the FBs should be a last resort especially when pressed. Ideally you want your first look to be centrally but that isn’t happening for Arsenal and therefore it limits the progression of the ball.
Establishing the midfield in this game would help the Gunners exert more influence on the game and likely force West Ham into a strategic change. It also would likely see West Ham forced deeper into their own defensive third.
It’s a difficult task for a team that has struggled to play centrally but its one we’re going to need to develop in this game and beyond if Arsenal are going to be effective especially against teams that like to sit in a low block.
A step in the right direction
The win against Southampton was needed. A win against the upstarts that are West Ham would go a long way to changing mindsets about the trajectory of this club (in the minds of the hardcore doubters.) Its not an easy task, for all the reasons mentioned earlier and known to about everybody. Still, Arsenal have shown an ability to be as good as they have been frustrating.
What the Manager Says (courtesy Arsenal.com)
Well, it’s a big game because of the position they are in, and the position we want to be in. Tomorrow we have the opportunity at home, in front of our people to do that. That would be a big, big boost
Arsenal Record vs Opponent (league only)
32W 8L 10D
Goals Scored (season average)
Arsenal (home) 1.88
West Ham (away) 1.50
Goals Conceded (season average)
Arsenal (home) 0.75
West Ham (away) 0.88
xG (via Wyscout)
West Ham 1.62
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Assistants: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn
Fourth official: Peter Bankes
VAR: Chris Kavanagh
Assistant VAR: Sian Massey-Ellis
Match Facts (courtesy BBC.co.uk)
- Arsenal have won 10 of their last 11 home league games against West Ham.
- The Hammers have triumphed in just two of the past 28 meetings in all competitions.
- West Ham’s tally of 32 Premier League defeats in this fixture is a club record against one opponent.
- Arsenal are undefeated in seven home league matches, winning the last four in a row. They have never won five in a row at the Emirates under manager Mikel Arteta.
- The Gunners could win four successive league games at the Emirates without conceding for the first time since May 2017. The fourth victory in that sequence came against David Moyes’ Sunderland.
- Arsenal have lost just two of their 36 Premier League home matches played on a Wednesday. One of those defeats was against West Ham in February 2006.
- The Gunners have lost two of their four Premier League London derbies this season (W1 D1), having been defeated in just one in total last season.
- Alexandre Lacazette has scored a joint-career best five Premier League goals against West Ham, including goals in each of the last three meetings.
Editor note: Special thanks to Rasmus Pabst (@gamingpabst) who helped with the scouting of West Ham for this piece