Matchday: West Ham entertain L’Arsenal!

Here comes Andy! The King of the Impossible rides to West Ham’s rescue.

West Ham ArsenalIt seems that we can now all stop worrying as, if reports are to be believed, the unplayable, unstoppable Andy Carroll is ready to return for today’s late kickoff against Arsenal. Here comes the messiah and the cavalry all rolled into one to destroy that easily intimidated Arsenal defence who really ‘don’t like it up ’em’. A repeat of last season’s hat-trick heroics is a mere formality as we unleash our favourite blunt instrument on the soft north Londoners.

“He is a good player, not only heading or putting the ball in.  That doesn’t make you a great player, he’s got all that but he’s probably the best in the league at occupying the defence for me.”

– Slaven Bilic on Andy Carroll

To be fair, in some circumstances (and formations) Carroll can be a very effective option but to pretend there is far more to his game than his aerial ability (as our manager does) is a stretch as long as his neck; certainly at Premier League level. The expression “‘If your only tool is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail” is doubly apt here and raises the concern that our tactics will once again be an over-reliance on Andy’s head. Add to that the quality of our crossing, particularly if Cresswell is out, and it hardly instils confidence that Plan A is the surefire winner that many are hoping. As always I will be more than happy to be proved wrong.

Head to Head

West Ham are very much second best in the Head to Head stakes with Arsenal. The Gunners are probably one of few teams that hold the advantage both home and away. Last season’s victory at The Emirates was our only success in the last 12 meetings which have featured 10 dispiriting defeats.

 

P

W

D

L

F

A

Sequence

Home

62

14

24

24

78

98

DLLLLL

Away

60

14

16

30

62

103

WLLLLL

 

122

28

40

54

140

201

 

The last home win against Arsenal was in November 2006 courtesy of substitute Marlon Harewood’s 89th minute winner as he slid home following an uncharacteristic battling run by Matthew Etherington; the only goal of the game. The aftermath of the goal celebrations that day resulted in the famous ‘slugout in the dugout’ contest between Alan Pardew and Arsene Wenger.

Team News

Following another short lived comeback, Diafra Sakho is now reported to be side-lined for up to 6 weeks. Would be wing-backs Cresswell and Antonio both picked up thigh strains during the Old Trafford cup exit in the week and it seems that top-scorer Antonio is definitely out while Cresswell will have a late fitness test. Although unconfirmed there are also internet rumours of a bust-up between Bilic and Ayew over the latter’s fitness levels. It is difficult to know what the manager will do selection-wise but my guess is that he will stick with his (flawed) 3 at the back with Fernandes in at right wing back and Masuaku on the left if Cresswell is unavailable. Midfield is likely to be Obiang, Noble, Payet plus Lanzini or Ayew (if he isn’t on the naughty step). Upfront it will be Carroll or Fletcher and it will be interesting to see whether Andy gets a start (following the big build up) and how long he lasts this time.

Arsenal also have their injury problems with Bellerin, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Welbeck and Cazorla all missing and Giroud and Elneney doubtful. Unwilling to risk former Hammer’s loanee Carl Jenkinson, following his comical comeback display, Wenger will join in the playing players out of position fun by using Gabriel at right back.

“I have pity for every manager, but I think he has done a very good job there, he has built a good squad, and I’m sure it will come out in the long distance”

– Arsene Wenger on Slaven Bilic

I can’t help but have very bad thoughts at what an on-song Arsenal team might do against our defence with their fluidity, pace and inter-play. Let’s hope it is a bad day at the office for them.

The Man in the Middle

Today’s straw clutching comes in the form of a welcome to this season’s lucky referee Craig Pawson, yet another referee from Yorkshire. Pawson was in charge of the home wins against Bournemouth in the league and Chelsea in the EFL Cup. Pawson has officiated 12 games this season awarding 43 yellow and 1 red cards; the one red card being Harry Arter setting up victory in the game at the London Stadium.