By Chris Harris
"Last team at Highbury, first team at Emirates." Those words echoed around Holloway Road last April as West Ham fans celebrated a distinctive double. Their team, having grabbed the final away win at Arsenal's old ground, had just ended the Gunners' proud unbeaten record at their new home.
A repeat of that 1-0 victory would be even more damaging on New Year's Day because, unlike last year, Arsenal are in with a shout of the Premier League title. West Ham haven't been involved in a title race for more than 20 years but they like to have a say in the destination of the trophy - just ask Manchester United, who lost their third successive meeting with Alan Curbishley's team on Saturday.
We asked Dave Evans of the Newham Recorder for a West Ham perspective ahead of Tuesday's London derby. Read on for his assessment of the Hammers' season so far, the 'Green for England' campaign, the loss of Carlos Tevez and the new faces still waiting to make their mark at Upton Park.
THE STORY SO FAR
"West Ham's problem has been injuries, especially to the players brought in during the summer. They signed Scott Parker, Julien Faubert, Kieron Dyer, Craig Bellamy, and all of them have been out at one time or another. Others have long-term injuries and are still out. Alan Curbishley hasn't been able to field the same team two days running. He's held the defence together pretty well but he's had to chop and change up front and in midfield. Obviously that is no good for consistency."
MAN OF THE MOMENT
"When he was fit Bellamy stood out. He's the club's record signing, they paid £7.5 million for him down from Liverpool, and he made an immediate impact. West Ham started to play a different style with Bellamy in the team, especially away from home. They played on the break, using Bellamy's speed as a great counter-attacking measure and it worked with great victories at Reading for example. But now he's been hit by injuries and West Ham have had to regroup.
"Rob Green has carried on where he left off last season and he has shown a high level of consistency. Nobody knows why he's not in the England squad. Curbishley and Green spoke to McClaren before he picked squads and apparently there was a reason why he wasn't involved. They weren't saying what it was but now obviously there's a new man, Fabio Capello, at the helm, so perhaps he's got a chance to come back in. Green has been worth so many points to West Ham and he has proved himself to be a world-class goalkeeper in my eyes. Some of the one-on-one saves and the penalty saves he's made - which he'd never done before - have been incredible."
"A lot of the play went through Carlos Tevez last season. They gave him the ball and let him do what he wanted with it. Things have changed, new people have come in and they do play in a very different style to when Tevez was there. They miss him but you have to remember he didn't score for his first 20 appearances, it was only in the last 10 games when he caught fire. But you only have to see what he is doing at Manchester United to realise that West Ham do miss him."
CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM
"I think they certainly have the squad to reach the top seven or eight but injuries have held them back. If West Ham can get their players fit and playing on a regular basis, I think they are a match for anyone bar the top four. They played Everton twice in December - probably the fifth or six best side - and lost both times but West Ham matched them in many departments. All they lacked was the cutting edge which someone like Bellamy, Kieron Dyer or even Faubert would offer if fit."
"Their counter-attacking tactics have worked well away from home, although not so well since Bellamy was injured. Matty Etherington has been injured and he makes a lot of key breaks as well. We are talking just before Christmas but, as it stands, I expect Green to be in goal, Lucas Neill and George McCartney on the right and left respectively, Matty Upson - who has been absolutely superb this season - in the centre probably alongside James Collins. In midfield it could be Scott Parker [although he was injured against Manchester United] and Hayden Mullins in the centre. Out on the right it will either be Nobby Solano or Freddie Ljungberg with Luis Boa Morte or perhaps Ljungberg on the left. Carlton Cole and Dean Ashton are the most likely pairing up front."
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
"Arsenal must have had 30 shots when West Ham last played at the Emirates but it was just one of those days. Arsenal hit the post, Green put in a world-class display, and West Ham became the only team to win at the Emirates. Perhaps they have a bit of a hoodoo over Arsenal and they will be looking to do the same on New Year's Day."