A Bubble That Needs Bursting: West Ham Prematch & Predicted Line-Up

Can we make the Hammers’ hopes go POP?

Who would have thought even six months ago that facing West Ham in a Premier League game might be a daunting prospect?

David Moyes has done an indisputably good job of turning London’s perpetual also-rans into a serious team that merits its current position in the top five.

The Irons lost their first two games of the season (to Newcastle and, somewhat unluckily, to us) but since then have only been beaten by Liverpool, Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs. Not bad, eh?

They have been doing the business against the mid- and lower-table clubs. Sadly, that group includes us at the moment, given that we currently lie 10th in the table, seven points behind today’s opponents.

And yet…

I feel that the current Arsenal team has the tools with which to hurt the Hammers and burst their bubble.

Odegaard is starting to look like an excellent prospect, Saka causes problems for anyone, Tierney is a menace down our left flank and we have begun adding goals from midfield.

The crucial thing (and I am afraid this is becoming a familiar refrain) is that we do not shoot ourselves in the foot. We managed to avoid the worst sort of self-harming errors in the last two games (against Olimpiacos and Totteringham). Can we keep that level of focus for a third game? Can we get a rare clean sheet?

Team news is positive, with Bukayo Saka recovered from his muscle strain and available to play. Mikel Arteta might be tempted to keep him on the bench but I suspect he would rather start him and hope to take him off before the end.

Another injury boost was the news that Willian is still a doubt for today. Everyone else should be fit if selected.

Here’s the team I fancy will start:


Cedric – Luiz – Gabriel – Tierney

Xhaka – Partey

Saka – Odegaard – Aubameyang


I hope I am wrong and that Smith Rowe gets to start (perhaps with Auba as central striker and Laca on the bench), but I could see El Patron keeping him in reserve, partly to manage his minutes and avoid potential injury.

It should be a close, competitive game. Let’s hope we can come out on top.

Come On You Gunners.



78 Responses to A Bubble That Needs Bursting: West Ham Prematch & Predicted Line-Up

  1. LBG says:

    Thanks for your efforts Rocky.
    All the talk that Mikel has all his Summer plans clear and in place, (a team without Luiz, Xhaka and I’m sorry to say Aubameyang, I hope), or we will remain a middle of the table team. ( and you might find yourself out of a job, Mikel)
    Sorry same old, same old. At least Willian is probably out.
    The Interlull for me always brings thoughts of the past, mostly good, but occasionally errors made. Will send in a Post during the week if it helps with the Interlull doldrums. Hope all Arsenal Internationals dont play at all!!
    Morning all. COYG

  2. LBG says:

    I am an England cricket and rugby fan, and hoped the soft centred Toffees might have got stuck in Pep’s teeth. So I need you now Gunners!

  3. Sue says:

    🤣 love the Willian rib-tickler!!

    2 things I’m not looking forward to seeing:
    Jessie Lingard
    Roly-poly Moss

    COYG (& come on Auba!!)

  4. RC78 says:

    Must win game before the international break

    Expected line-up:
    Leno – Cedric, Luiz, Gabs, Tierney – Partey, Xhaka – Sake, Ode, ESR – Auba

    My preferred line-up:

    Leno – Cedric, Holding, Gabs, Tierney – Partey, Xhaka, El Neny – Saka, Laca, ESR

    West Ham is very athletic in the middle, I d play three midfielders…

  5. RA says:

    Morning, O Prince of the Blogs, and thank you for the pre-Match Post.

    Like LBG, I too, as a foreigner in a not so foreign land, enjoy the emotional ups and downs of international cricket and Rugby Union, as well as supporting the Gunners, and the result of losing to India and Ireland played on mind more than I would normally like to admit to.

    I will explain why that has anything to do with today’s game in a moment, but first can I tell you why your Posts are often very soporific to this particular blogger.

    You see, I have been trained over the years to read reports, analyse data, or prepare advice as necessary with a somewhat steely resolve.

    However, when you produce a Post, there is no pressure on me, and I find a relaxing, informative opinion on a match of importance to all the hallowed bloggers on here.

    Without realising it, the results of yesterday’s game and the forthcoming game today played on my mind, and, in the way these things work, as I settled down to sleep last night I experienced a sense of hypnagogia trying to rationalise the Saturday international results and to try and predict the best team and tactics to play against the ‘Ammers.

    Waking this a.m. I still recalled some of the debate I had with myself while in the transitional state of consciousness between starting to fall asleep and actually relapsing into sleep, (weird but there you go) and this morning I was put in mind of the complex Japanese tea ritual, ( I am no expert but some things stick from my time working in Japan) and there is a term that is used in Japan called ‘wabi-sari’, which means “satisfaction in finding beauty in every aspect of imperfection in nature. It is all about about the aesthetic of things in existence, that are “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete” and I have believed in this for many years.

    Hence, coupled with the pleasure of reading your pre-match, and not wishing to commit hari kari when Arsenal seem to run through burning coals when leading games and trying to hold out until the 90th minute, I think of the aesthetics of imperfection and sod the result — unless we win, and I then enter the state of delirium — and cannot stop thinking how great Arsenal can become — again.

  6. RockyLives says:

    Brilliant essay Redders 😀

    “…not wishing to commit hari kari when Arsenal seem to run through burning coals when leading games and trying to hold out until the 90th minute, I think of the aesthetics of imperfection and sod the result…”


  7. Sue says:

  8. fred1266 says:

    Lol I love the willian dig

  9. RA says:

    Thank you, Rocky, you are a very nice, and forgiving man. 😁

    Having re-read my comment, apart from appreciating and thanking you for your usual high standard Post, I rather forgot myself and wrote, at pace, about things that occurred to me personally, which was unfair to those who do not want to read such stuff – and certainly will wonder why I have used terminology that does not sit well on a very active football blog site. Mea Culpa.

    Hi, LBG,

    You have a good memory, and have been an habitué of AA for longer than I thought — you are not Duck in disguise, are you? 😳

    Big Bertha was a platonic girlfriend, years ago, not that I had much say in things, altho I was not scared of her muscles or anything like that — she was quite amusing, but I was more of an occasional escort to parties she was invited to, as at around 6′ 4″ she needed someone bigger than she was – apparently.

    Last I heard, she had gone to South America with a really nice guy of around 5′ 6″ who was the one throwing most of the parties. 😁

  10. RockyLives says:

    Chambers – Luiz – Mari – Tierney
    Xhaka – Partey
    Saka – Odegaard – Aubameyang

  11. RockyLives says:

    Interesting that Chambo starts.

    West Ham score a lot of their goals from set pieces so I guess El Patron wanted extra height.

  12. Rasp says:

    Chambers favoured over Cedric? Tierney has been gushing with praise for Mikel, he claims he has completely changed the way he thinks about football.

  13. RockyLives says:

    Gabriel has been on very good form – maybe needs a rest.

    Mari is a decent replacement and (I think) our tallest defender.

  14. LB says:

    Ingrained prejudices aside for a moment, it is quiet amazing how much football Xhaka is getting, is there anyone apart from Leno who plays more?

  15. RA says:


    M – 6′ 3″
    H – 6′ 2″
    L – 6′ 2″
    G – 6′ 2″
    C – 5′ 10″

    Bellerin 5′ 8″
    Tierney 5′ 8″

    I’m sure you can work out the abbreviated names.😜

  16. RockyLives says:

    Yes Redders

    M = Me (ie You)
    H = Humpy the Camel
    L = LBG (with his high heels on)
    G = GoonerB (underneath the camel)
    C = Come on You Gunners

  17. RockyLives says:

    Antonio and Soucek pose the biggest danger.

    Fabianski to have a blinder?

  18. RA says:

    I missed out Xhaka = 6′ 1″

    We are hardly a ‘big’ team in defence.

  19. RA says:

    Rocky, 😜 😜

    Soucek = 6′ 3″ = taller than all but Mari in our defence.

  20. RockyLives says:


  21. LBG says:

    Come on Aubang get your finger out, show us your are interested…….or b***** off.

  22. Rasp says:

    Not a great start … our playing out from the back remains a high risk strategy when the opposition decides to press.

  23. LBG says:

    So trust Kieran and Callum have been taking tips from Dixon and Winterburn – stop the cross. And all players have been told DONT GIVE AWAY UNNECESSARY FREEKICKS.

  24. LBG says:

    So, based o the first 8 mins, NO!!

  25. RockyLives says:

    we need to get a bit of control

  26. RockyLives says:

    Well this is embarrassing.

  27. LBG says:

    So that’s what You call defending Luiz….and goalkeeping Bernd?
    Wake up or get off the pitch.

  28. Aaron says:

    Best play of the game so far was Auba’s track back tackle on lingard..

    Tepid performance at best.

    Clown show defending back to the front.

  29. RockyLives says:

    That second goal is a disgrace. Every single player who was ambling back with his back to the action should be dropped to the reserves for the next three games. That includes Saka – arguing with the ref while West Ham were getting on with winning a game.

  30. LB says:

    We’re getting a lesson here.

  31. RockyLives says:

    And Leno. Jeez.

    This week it emerged the current No 1 keeper in the EPL on stats is Martinez.

  32. Las says:

    My ohh my….
    It is just to easy for West Ham.
    Are we awake?

  33. RockyLives says:

    My God we look ponderous

  34. LBG says:

    Far too slow in build up. Let’s try and break down 11 west Ham players behind the ball. Joke!

  35. Aaron says:

    Ode and Tierney trying hard, Xhaka and Leno look drugged!

  36. LB says:


  37. LB says:

    Good goal

  38. LBG says:

    Luiz takes the easy back to the goalkeeper route out and points to Tierney who is given a looped pass from Leno that he can only volley because he has two closing. Its pathetic.

    Well done Laca and bOdey.

  39. Las says:

    What is this? I can’t watch it. It is a disgrace. Shame on all the players on the pitch. No fight, no spirit, noone turning up. Shambolic performance.

  40. RockyLives says:

    There’s a streak of unprofessionalism running through our club.

    You can see Arteta trying to get to grips with it with his attempts to impose discipline, but it’s a worry.

    Oooh – great goal Laca – it’s back on 😀

  41. Aaron says:

    Mikel has to pull Xhaka, the guy can’t even trap a ball today, think he is just gassed from playing so many games.

  42. LBG says:

    Three dynamic passes in a row from Partey.
    David Luiz is a joke and doesn’t deserve his salary.

  43. LBG says:

    Is Aubang playing? Surely you can see the lack of care, Mikel? Is Willian on the bench?

  44. RockyLives says:

    Auba and Laca seldom work in the same team.

    We’d be much better off without Auba and with ESR on the left.

    Let’s hope we can get a second before the hour mark (and not concede another) and then give someone else a nervous finish for a change.

  45. LBG says:

    Martinelli for Aubang, Elneny for Xhaka to start with.

  46. Sue says:

    Breaking: All 11 Arsenal players facing fine for turning up late at the London Stadium 🤪

    Sheesh, what a half and what a s**t bag Lingard is…

  47. LB says:

    ESR might be a better option than Martinelli, it’s about operating in tight spaces this second half, although it was that from the outset.

  48. RA says:

    That was a disgraceful performance.

    Mind the ref (Moss) is a tosser too — the freekick was taken 2 or 3 metres from where the tackle was made — everyone other ref would call that back to where the kick should have been taken.

    As if we don’t have enough problems with our team already.

  49. RockyLives says:

    Auba is Willianesque in this game.

  50. LBG says:

    I dont think Smith-Rowe is fully fit.

  51. RockyLives says:

    I’m not sure about all these loopy crosses into the box against one of the tallest teams in the Prem.

  52. LB says:

    What is going on?

  53. RockyLives says:

    LB 😀
    That sums it up.

  54. LBG says:

    BOdegaard is a keeper.

  55. RockyLives says:

    Saka really needs a rest.

  56. RockyLives says:

    Auba our worst player by a mile.

    Get him off and give Martinelli a chance .

  57. RockyLives says:

    Ha – called it!

  58. Aaron says:

    Pepe with the right foot cross, and antonio missing from 1 foot,

    Unthinkable at this point??

  59. RockyLives says:

    If aliens landed on the pitch it wouldn’t be a surprise at this stage

  60. RockyLives says:

    Talk about from zeroes to heroes…

  61. RA says:

    I eventually got a call into Mikel — “get that f****r Xhaka and that t****r Auba OFF”

    And we played far better without them. Laca would never have scored that header otherwise.

    That was our game to win – despite the first half nonsense.

  62. RockyLives says:

    West Ham’s second was unforgivable on our part.

  63. RA says:

    Aaron that was the Wham player Berhami who crossed that ball to Antonio to miss. 😜

  64. LB says:

    We are going to struggle to keep Odegaard.

  65. RA says:

    You are right — Leno is a plonker, frankly — but as I said, Moss had a hand in it by allowing the free kick to be taken from the wrong place i.e. 5 metres from where the ‘offence’ occurred – should have been retaken.

  66. Sue says:

    Best I get my whip out, some of them need to be flogged!!
    What a game… we really should come with a health warning…

  67. Aaron says:

    Oh, and what a miss it was!

    Ode controlled the game darn near by himself.

    Mikel has some things to work out.

    Really hope NO AFC players play during worthless internationals in covid madness.

    However, we all know the corrupt and scummy associations would make the teams play even 1X1 to make $…

    A fight back that is worthy of noting, forgetting the 1st half performance.

    Get the team players ready for our next Europa challenge.

  68. RA says:

    Just watched it again — should never be allowed.

  69. Rasp says:

    We have a problem …. his name is Aubameyang. I appreciate he had personal problems a couple of months ago, but this has gone on too long. I wouldn’t mind if it was lack of form, but this is entirely different.

  70. RockyLives says:

    He gave the ball away every time it came to him, putting us in trouble on several occasions.

  71. Rasp says:

    I know Rocky. Whatever his beef is, he’s being unprofessional. I don’t think we can afford to stick by him when every point matters at this stage of the season. Start with Martinelli and let’s see if he wants to fight for his place I say.

  72. LB says:

    Auba’s ball control is woeful always has been; he is the new Ozil, the team have out grown him.

  73. Rasp says:

    Good point. That’s a fair assessment LB. I hope Mikel sees it that way.

  74. RC78 says:

    One day – we will play consistently under Arteta for 90 mins and we may then achieve some level of success but my goodness, what a disaster and some players should really look at themselves in the mirror: Auba first, Leno second…Xhaka not great either today…

    In terms of efforts, Chambers, Tierney, Odegaard and Laca led the way and I was pleased for Pepe’s performance and he could have even snatched it for us…Pablo Mari is hard to assess – is he good, is he average…? I thought anyways that Arteta got the set up wrong from the start – we know how West Ham plays with their wingers, Antonio also drifting to the left and Lingard and Soucek making runs in the box…and yet, it was way to easy for large part of the first half. Even Chambers and Partey struggled early on…

    I can sense a tired Saka since 3-4 games, I hope he won’t play for England.

  75. RC78 says:

    Auba like Ozil before will stay on his bumper deal – let us not kid ourselves…I am hoping he is going to wake up soon

  76. LBG says:

    Absolutely everything about Luiz’s defending for all three goals was absolutely shite and on each occasion he looked to blame others. Xhaka is slow of body and mind, also blames others, points responsibility to others for things he should be covering himself ( if he was quick enough). Aubameyang is not interested other than his money, has taken umbrage at being rightly challenged as Club Captain when breaking simple rules. Hope he insists on leaving like he did at Dortmund.
    I repeat my comments at the very start of yesterday’s Post, all three need to be ditched, but none will be.
    John Moss is the worst/incompetent on the panel. Two potential penalties on Laca. 6-6 would not have made it better for me.
    Rocky is right “unprofessionalism” is not acceptable from our Club. Who is in charge, what do they see week by week, what are they doing about it? If it is you Mikel, I want proof, firstly by your selections and secondly by you rejection of mediocrity.

  77. Gööner In Exile says:

    I did not get to watch the game so am quite grateful of the comments, I see Auba is coming in for serious stick. There were many of us who questioned the wisdom of agreeing this great deal he got.

    I do have some sympathy with the club there was always a risk that not signing him up could have led to a season of him tearing it up and the club coming in for criticism for not signing him and the grumblings that have happened in the past with players in their last season of contract.

    However I think we could all see long before he won us the FA Cup that he did not really suit the type of game Arteta wants to play, yes on occasion where we planned to sit deep and break he was the man, but when we are trying to control possession and a pass and move build up he just hasn’t got the tools in his locker, he is not a great dribbler, he is not a great passer and his first touch is woeful for someone so handsomely paid. And perhaps most importantly he has never been a player who can stand up to the rigours of a premier league defence, competing for high balls, playing back to goal and risking a knock or two are just not within his skillset.

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