Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents. Arsène Wenger's side take on West Ham United on Wednesday, so to find out more we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and local journalist Dave Evans for their views.
Now in charge of his fourth Premier League club, Sam Allardyce has persisted with the direct, uncompromising style that caused Arsenal particular problems in his time at Bolton Wanderers.
Arsenal must cope with the aerial bombardment, but also impose their short, intricate passing style upon the game in midfield. Although West Ham have a good record at Upton Park this season, they've struggled on the road when the opposition sets the tempo.
The fact they’ve received 32 bookings away from home this season, more than any other side in the Premier League, shows they find it difficult to cope with clever passing sides
The fact they’ve received 32 bookings away from home this season, more than any other side in the Premier League, shows they find it difficult to cope with clever passing sides. They’ve also committed the most fouls in 2012/13.
With Andy Carroll injured and Arsenal loanee Marouane Chamakh ineligible, Carlton Cole will play up front. He's become accustomed to leading the line with little support, and if the ball is played to his feet, he'll hold up the play and wait for runners to join him.
Cole's flick-ons and knock-downs can be a danger if midfielders start close to him - Ricardo Vaz Te charges towards goal from the wing, while Kevin Nolan times his runs into the box superbly from central positions. As West Ham’s top goalscorer this season, Nolan is a greater goal threat than their forwards.
In midfield, the combination of Mohamed Diame and Mark Noble works nicely. Diame can surge forward powerfully, as he showed with his opener in the reverse fixture earlier this season, while Noble is capable of scrapping in midfield, and providing good forward passes into attack.
At the back, the absence of James Collins robs Allardyce of a powerful header of the ball. James Tomkins’ style of defending is more subtle, although Winston Reid provides a powerful presence in the centre of defence.
This match will test two very different parts of Arsenal’s game: their ability to compete in the air at the back, and their ability to break down a defensive-minded side that might be content with a point.
DAVE EVANS, NEWHAM READER
West Ham went into a lot of difficult fixtures at the end of November where they were playing a lot of the top teams. In the first eight or nine games, they didn’t face any of the big four. They were able to start well and pick up a lot of points which gave them confidence. They beat Chelsea and they beat Norwich on New Year’s Day but they have struggled a bit of late, especially away from home. Wednesday will be another big test for them. They’re not scoring many goals away. They’ve only scored five on the road all season.
Joe Cole is a legend at West Ham. The fans are really happy to have him back. I think the fans feel he’s come home
Joe Cole is a legend at West Ham. The fans are really happy to have him back. He’s impressed since returning, with two assists against Manchester United and the equaliser against Queens Park Rangers last Saturday. He’s a star player and I think the fans feel he’s come home.
I think the outcome of the game depends on which Arsenal team turns up. If it’s the team that played in the first half against Chelsea, West Ham should have a chance. If it’s the team that played in the second half of that game, West Ham probably won’t have a chance. I think West Ham will play in a 4-5-1 and try to stifle Arsenal, then hit them on the counter-attack.
Arsenal are a good side. If they pass the way that they can and are anywhere near their best, they will probably win the game. West Ham are solid at the back but goalscoring has been their problem of late. The first goal is vital.
I think Arsenal will win 3-1.Copyright 2015 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