Today we take on West Ham at the Emirates after a week and a half of ups and downs.
On the down side we crashed out of the Europa League with a home defeat to Olympiacos and our Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira suffered a fractured ankle in the FA Cup tie at Portsmouth.
On the up side, we qualified from that FA Cup tie and now face Sheffield United away for a place in the semi finals; our Invincibles’ record remained intact when Liverpool were thrashed by the mighty Watford and both ‘Pool and the Spuds got dumped out of the FA Cup.
The Hammers are in desperate need of points in the Premier League. They’re out of the bottom three only on goal difference and potential relegation beckons.
However, they did win their last league game (home versus Southampton) so their confidence may have risen a little. Prior to that they had a tough run of games which saw defeats to Liverpool (twice), Manchester City and Leicester, with a 3-3 draw with Brighton in the middle.
They have conceded more goals in the EPL (49) than anyone except the bottom two clubs, Villa and Norwich, so you would hope our attacking players can make hay with that leaky defence.
When it comes to goal scoring however they are only four behind us (they have 35, we have 39 having played one game less). The main threat in this regard is the French striker Sebastien Haller who has seven, but they can pose a goal threat from midfield with Noble, Snodgrass and Fornals.
I’m never sure what I think about the ‘Appy ‘Ammers. They’re certainly not in the Spuds/Chavs class of despicable London clubs who deserve to be beaten and humiliated at every opportunity. But they can be annoying and, frankly, have an overly high opinion of themselves because they used to have a few good players in the days of black-and-white television.
My next-door neighbour is a Hammer and has a dog called Bobby, after former England captain and West Ham legend Bobby Moore. When Bobby met my dog, Dennis (named after you-know-who) Bobby was sent packing. Some things are just immutably written in the laws of nature.
We’ll probably face one former Gunner in Lukas Fabianski, but we won’t be seeing another one-time N5 star whose career never achieved the heady heights we once imagined for him. Apparently the Hammers are trying to buy out Jack Wilshere from his £100k a week contract because he is hardly ever fit to play.
I feel sorry for Jack. He was the subject of some appalling tackles early in his career and was never given adequate protection by the officials. Mind you, there was something about his style of play which invited opponents to dive in on him. Usually he could hop out of the way just in time, leaving the opponent on their arse or otherwise out of the game. But when he got it wrong, he suffered.
Here’s the team I expect Mikel Arteta to choose today:
Bellerin – Mustafi – Luiz – Saka
Xhaka – Ceballos
Pepe – Nketieh – Aubameyang
The only arguable “surprise” there is that I expect El Patron to persist with Eddie given his wonderfully taken goal on Monday night and given Lacazette’s continuing woes.
Bellerin was truly awful against Olympiacos and really needs to pick up. I back him to do so. I know many people have doubts about Pepe but he has been improving and I expect that upward track to continue. After Nelson’s performance against Portsmouth we have a ready-made replacement if Pepe needs to be hooked.
Ozil was another who had an indifferent game against the Greeks but who I expect to bounce back today. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re writing him up as Man of the Match after this one.
We have more than enough about us to take all three points and that’s what I expect us to do.
Come on you Gunners.