A comfortable league position topped with the occasional exciting cup run is often cited as the extent of many West Ham supporter’s hopes and expectations. If the current league position was just a little more healthy then perhaps we could expect to go into this game all guns blazing, in the hope of securing a semi final berth in this season’s EFL cup competition. As it is, with the hoped for revival in its infancy and with a run of league games that we would hope to win coming thick and fast during the festive season, then there is likely to be a hint of caution in the air.
On the other hand, something similar might be said for tonight’s hosts and opponents Arsenal. In terms of their own season this competition is a relatively low priority, well behind scrambling a customary (but increasingly difficult and hotly contested) fourth place finish and winning the Europa League final; a feat which is arguably their best route into next season’s Champion’s League. Arsene Wenger will have already scribbled a reminder onto his post match excuse pad that his side have to play again, against Liverpool, on Friday night as one of the potential reasons for a tame and lack-lustre display against the Hammers.
However, if Wenger fires up his spreadsheet showing the time since each team’s last match he will notice that the Hammer’s have had one hour less to prepare for tonight’s clash due to the power failure at Stoke on Saturday night. Such small margins have always been critical in his eyes. The unconfirmed reports of the Frenchman scuttling away from the Britannia Stadium before kick-off with a pair of wire cutters may be true after all.
Today’s game will be just the third meeting between the two clubs in the League Cup’s fifty year plus history with the honours standing even at one apiece. West Ham won 3-1 (Hurst 2, Peters) at Highbury in a third round tie in 1966 while the Gunners got the better of West Ham by 2-1 (Abou) in a fifth round clash at Upton Park in 1998.
There are sure to be a raft of changes by both sides for the game with the usual bench-warmers getting a rare start. The one West Ham player probably in need of a decent rest is Pablo Zabaleta although options in the right back/ wing back position remain limited. For the other side the moody Walcott has often proved a thorn in the Hammer’s side in an otherwise disappointing career.
It would be nice to think that David Moyes and his team will go all out for the win. There is nothing formidable about the current Arsenal side even though our display against them in the league fixture, where we showed them an unnecessary level of respect, was the least impressive in our recent run. I am banking on the game meaning more to us than it does to Arsenal giving just the right level of impetus to put the Hammers through to the next round.