After a Saturday when none of the Premier League results could be considered favourable towards Arsenal, today’s game against West Ham becomes even more important. The gap at the top is back to 5 points after Liverpool beat Burnley, and after all the hard work of last weekend, we need all three today to stay on their tails.
Mikel Arteta will have a couple of decisions to make about his team. If Oleksandr Zinchenko is out, which looks likely after he came off against Liverpool, does he reward Jakub Kiwior for a solid 45 minutes, or turn to the more experienced Takehiro Tomiyasu who should be available again after his Asian Cup absence? My guess is the latter, he got plenty of minutes under his belt for Japan so he should be match-fit, and in a game where the stakes are so high, he just feels like the obvious pick there.
In midfield, Jorginho was man of the match last week, but is this a game where you need him as much? Perhaps the left-back issue might tie into this decision. If he goes a different direction, the left 8 position opens up for someone if Kai Havertz continues up front. We don’t know yet of Gabriel Jesus is fit to start. My suspicion is Jorginho will start today, but let’s see.
It also feels like a big day for Declan Rice. We’ve played West Ham twice this season, and lost twice. He was a sub in the EFL Cup game, brought on to help us overturn a 2-0 deficit, and within a couple of minutes it was 3-0 and game over. In the league game back in December, he – like a few others on the day – wasn’t anywhere near his best, and conceded a clumsy penalty late on. Thankfully for him, David Raya saved his blushes with a decent save, but it hasn’t gone well for him against his old club this season.
I’m sure he’ll be absolutely desperate to put that right today, especially away from home where he is going to get lots of stick from the West Ham fans. The manager was asked about him, as you might expect, and talked him up ahead of a really important game for him and the team, saying:
We were expecting the best, obviously, because we had to pay big money and we knew the player really well. But something else is the way he’s fitting in, and how loved and respected he is already at the club, in the team.
Then obviously the performances he’s put in every single week. He’s been probably one of the most consistent players this season, and especially in big big games he’s been incredibly strong for us to help us to win those games.
Let’s hope it’s not just a case of third time lucky for Declan Rice v West Ham today at the London Stadium, and that the three points come from a good performance from him and the team, but if lucky is what it takes, I can live with that.
We know what the Hammers are all about under David Moyes, and how difficult it’s going to be break them down. As poor as we were in the 2-0 defeat in December, and there’s no question we were well below our best in the opposition final third, they also defended very well. I expect more of the same today, and for quick breaks with Kudus and Bowen, as well as set-pieces, key to their approach. None of it should be a surprise to Arsenal, but let’s see how well we cope, and if we can take a measure of revenge after what was a painful loss six weeks ago.
Catch you later!