Arsenal will be after a third successive win in order to keep their faint title hopes alive, but have a very tricky game ahead of them as they make the short journey across London to face a West Ham United team that is unbeaten at home since August.
The hosts are in a terrific vein of form and hopes of the Champions League are still very much alive despite losing a little ground on the top four last weekend as the debatable sending off of Cheikhou Kouyate allowed opponents Crystal Palace to peg them back and seal a 2-2 draw. Frustratingly, the goals they conceded were avoidable while the ones they scored were of such quality, with another stunning free-kick from Dimitri Payet underlining his sheer audacity.
Having achieved such great results against many of the Premier League’s leading lights this season, it is clear that West Ham enjoy pitting their wits against the very best sides and raise their game accordingly. This promises to be a captivating contest between two teams that play very attractive football, and several matchwinners will be present on the Upton Park pitch. If they can win this one, then Payet is certain to be right at the heart of the Hammers’ success.
All of a sudden and somewhat frustratingly for their supporters, Arsenal seem to have got their mojo back, sweeping aside Everton and Watford in their last two outings almost effortlessly. This will be a much harder game, but confidence looks to be restored and they are playing with a sense of freedom, a sea change that has coincided with the return of the intricate play for which they are so well known, and most importantly a clinical edge in front of goal.
Youngster Alex Iwobi has to take a good deal of the credit for that as he has freshened the side up and shown that he is of Premier League quality, but January signing Mohamed Elneny has also made a considerable difference since being introduced to the starting XI back in February. The Egyptian has proved himself to be a calming influence in the midfield, as well as possessing a good football intelligence, so he has already emerged as a key part of Arsene Wenger’s plans.
The home side have a fully-fit squad available, with Cheikhou Kouyate having seen a red card rescinded for the second time in a matter of weeks.
Petr Cech should be back in the Arsenal starting XI after injury, while midfielders Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey are back in contention.
Last Meeting: Two quick goals in the lead-up to half-time gave Arsenal an impressive victory at Upton Park in December 2014, with the hosts left feeling aggrieved at a controversial disallowed goal. The opener came from the penalty spot as Santi Cazorla converted, while Danny Welbeck made it two just three minutes later as he turned in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross. Cheikhou Kouyate pulled one back after the break, but West Ham could not find an equaliser.
Played for both – Nigel Winterburn: The left-back spent some 13 years of his career with Arsenal and formed part of the famous back four that won the double in 1997-98, nine years after he won the First Division title with the club on that dramatic night at Anfield. He ended his playing days at West Ham, where he scored once in 82 league matches before announcing his retirement in 2003.
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