Arsenal v. West Ham
The Emirates Stadium
Another London derby is upon us, as West Ham make the short trek north to Ashburton Grove to take on Arsenal. The Gunners will be looking to complete their second consecutive season double over the Hammers, who had caused us problems in the league in the past few years.
At Upton Park back in October, it was a rough and tedious encounter where Arsenal were predictably starved of any creative ideas for 70 minutes until the timely introduction of Adebayor who presence caused a Faubert own goal, and then in the dying seconds the Togolese international grabbed one for himself. Since then under Gianfranco Zola, West Ham have been mighty impressive, which has seen them move up to 8th place in the table. The Italian maestro will have his side tactically set up to stifle Arsenal's inept and inexperienced midfield, which will most likely work to West Ham's favor.
Surprisingly Arsene has been asked questions other than about that impending transfer. 'We had a difficult game on Wednesday night, but we are on a good run and I am not concerned'
'This team has overcome a lot of criticism and have a strong character. I am very positive and believe very strongly in my squad - why should we consider all of the negative aspects of the season?'
He also commented on the contract situation with his star striker. 'I'm convinced it means a lot to Robin to stay here," said Wenger. "He wants to be part of the Club and of course we have to satisfy his demands as well. I don't think we're far away.
"He knows how much it means to me and we will try to sort him out and Walcott. I've invested a lot of time in him because I feel it is important to them and it means something to them to be at this Club."
'I believe him being fit has helped him greatly," said Wenger. "He is a player who has made an extreme improvement. When you consider the player who arrived here and who he is today it's absolutely fantastic.
'He has two ingredients which are very important - the talent and the motivation. He thinks, lives and breathes football every moment of his life. He is much more mature now as well.'
Arsenal Team News:
The same squad that traveled to Merseyside midweek, will occupy the team sheet tomorrow. Toure will once again have to settle for a spot on the bench, while it will be interesting to see if Denilson starts on the right wing again, where, frankly, he was useless.
Silvestre has suffered a relapse, and will be out until March. Eduardo is two to three weeks away from first team action, Cesc is out six to eight more weeks, Theo another five weeks, and Rosicky eight weeks.
Possible Starting XI: Alumina, Sagna, Djourou, Gallas, Clichy, Denilson, Diaby, Song, Nasri, van Persie, Adebayor
Player to watch: Robin van Persie
The flying Dutchman has rightly earned his wings as of late. Not many more superlatives can be hurled his way, so I wills simply say that he is the obvious man to watch for Arsenal in the fixture. Let's see if he can continue his breathtaking statistic of assisting or scoring every Arsenal goal in January in this last match of the month.
West Ham Team News:
As I said earlier, West Ham are on blistering form. They are undefeated in seven games, and have won six of those, since cruelly losing to Aston Villa. The only blimp in that run is a 2-2 draw at St. James Park. Simply stated, Zola has them firing on all cylinders.
Julian Faubert has been heavily linked with a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid, but will still be involved in this match. Dean Ashton and Dyer are still out for the Hammers, but for the first time in a extremely long time West Ham has a vast majority of their first team squad fit.
Player to watch: Carlton Cole
The big man upfront has scored in the last five matches, and has seemed to turn his unrefined skill into Premier League qualities under Zola. He will be a constant threat in the aerial department. Djourou and Gallas must be prepared for the long cross at all times.
Match Facts & Stats
Home and away
League (inc PL): Arsenal 46 wins, West Ham 27, Draws 30
Prem: Arsenal 16 wins, West Ham 6, Draws 5
at Arsenal only
League (inc PL): Arsenal 26 wins, West Ham 13, Draws 12
Prem: Arsenal 9 wins, West Ham 4, Draws 0
Before this season, West Ham were the only team to come to the Emirates and leave with three points
Arsenal have won the last three games a total of 5-0
There has never been a draw in North London between these two teams in EPL history
Steve Bennentt will be the head official for this East versus North London derby. He has managed 16 matches this season, handing out no reds and 58 yellows, which gives him a 3.63 card per game average.
I have a strong feeling that this will end as a draw, but again I will side with the blindly optimistic side of myself and say a 2-1 or 3-1 Arsenal win.
3/2 (Tue)- Cardiff City(H)- FA Cup
8/2 (Sun)- Tottenham (A)- Premier League
21/2 (Sat)- Sunderland (H)- Premier Leauge