Before every Arsenal fixture, we'll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners' next opponents.

Arsène Wenger's side visit Upton Park to play London rivals West Ham United on Boxing Day, to find out more we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and journalist Dave Evans. 

MICHAEL COX
Arsenal travel to Upton Park with West Ham just one place above the relegation zone, but Sam Allardyce’s strategy has caused Arsenal many problems over the years, and Arsenal must be prepared for a physical test on Boxing Day.

The Hammers’ main problem this season has been obvious - the lack of goals from up front. The long-term absence of Andy Carroll has caused significant problems, not merely because of the loss of his aerial power, but because other attacking options like Stewart Downing and Kevin Nolan depend upon his presence to shine.

In the central positions, Ravel Morrison is a talented midfielder who drives at the opposition and has a trick in his locker

Michael Cox

Allardyce went through a spell of unsuccessfully playing without a recognised centre forward, but will field either Mobido Maiga or Carlton Cole up front - the lone striker will battle with Arsenal’s centre backs and attempt to hold up the ball for midfield runners.

Allardyce has plenty of options behind the main striker, even without suspended captain Nolan. He’ll probably use four players breaking forward from midfield, with Mark Noble protecting the defence in a deeper position.

Out wide, Downing and Matt Jarvis are wingers who cross the ball frequently, while Joe Cole is more of a playmaker who can drift inside.

In the central positions, Ravel Morrison is a talented midfielder who drives at the opposition and has a trick in his locker, Mohamed Diame is a powerful runner who scored in this fixture last season, and Matt Taylor is a more defensive, functional option.

At the back, James Collins looked particularly nervous against pace and trickery in the 3-1 defeat to Manchester United on Saturday, and Arsenal may look to exploit his lack of speed.

Spanish goalkeeper Adrian made his Premier League debut at Old Trafford and pulled off some fine saves, but Arsenal should test him early on, assuming he retains his place ahead of Jussi Jaaskelainen.

Arsenal’s centre backs will have to be strong in the air. Only Manchester United have crossed the ball more frequently than West Ham this season, although the Hammers have only scored one set-piece goal - the lowest in the Premier League.

DAVE EVANS, NEWHAM RECORDER
West Ham have been disappointing this season. Their fixtures at the start of the season were pretty kind ones, as they were the season before. The Hammers started like an express train last season but they haven't done the same this time around. T

They are not getting enough goals and they have missed Andy Carroll who has been out for the whole season. Although they are doing very well in the League Cup, their league form is suffering and they are sitting perilously above the relegation zone at the moment.

Allardyce's team will look to sit back against Arsenal and then hit them on the counter-attack as the game goes on

Dave Evans

The main problem for Sam Allardyce is he just hasn't got a player to put the ball in the net. Last season everything seemed to go through Carroll and Kevin Nolan plays much better when the big forward is in the team because he knows Carroll will win headers and knock the ball down in the box. In his place they've got Modibo Maiga and Carlton Cole who have both failed to impress. Ricardo Vaz Te started the season with four goals but he is out with a shoulder injury.

West Ham tend to sit back and invite teams onto them. They try to tire teams out by keeping games tight. They've kept a lot of clean sheets already this season so their defence is pretty solid, but it's just going forward where they are really struggling.

Even at home, Allardyce's team will look to sit back against Arsenal and then hit them on the counter-attack as the game goes on. If they can keep it at 0-0 for as long as possible then they will hope to push forward in search of a late winner. Arsenal will no doubt throw men forward if the game is still level in the last 20 minutes.

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 24 Dec 2013