By Giuseppe Muro
Arsenal travel to Upton Park on Saturday with West Ham lying bottom of the Premier League.
The Londoners were thrashed 5-0 in their last League outing but have since beaten Barnsley and Birmingham in the Cup.
So can the Hammers dent the title hopes of Arsène Wenger’s side? We spoke to Dave Evans of the Newham Reader to get a West Ham perspective on the weekend’s game.
THE STORY SO FAR
The season started very badly. They were hampered by their fixtures at the start of the season because they had to play Aston Villa, Manchester United and then Chelsea in the first four games. I think once you get off to a bad start, it’s very difficult because the pressure is on. They were at the bottom almost from the start and having been down there for so long last season, I think it did affect them. The pressure got to them a little bit and it’s taken an awfully long time to get into a position where they can start to fight their way out of it. [The 5-0 defeat at Newcastle] was absolutely diabolical. I think it was one of the worst performances from a West Ham team in many years. Around that game they actually played quite well; they won at Fulham, drew at Everton and beat Wolves. Since that game they have won two Cup ties including the Carling Cup Semi-Final first leg on Tuesday.
THE MAN IN CHARGE
Your guess is as good as mine [as to what Avram Grant’s situation is]. What I hear is that the board are split about whether he should stay or whether he should go. At the moment, with results not going too badly and with them still in the Carling Cup, I think they are giving him a stay of execution. If they had lost on Tuesday [against Birmingham] I think it might have been a different story. I think it would be a little bit churlish to get rid of him having won that game on Tuesday. He seems to be quite relaxed about things, at the moment I think they are going to stick with him. I don’t think he really has the backing of the fans, but it’s turning a little bit. At the start of the season they weren’t very happy with him. He doesn’t have the demeanour that will warm to the fans, he stands at the edge of the technical area and doesn’t show a lot of emotion. He has been so derided in the press over a period of weeks and months that there is some sympathy for him. I think the tide is turning slightly but I would say perhaps 70 per cent of fans want to get rid of him.
MAN OF THE MOMENT
Scott Parker is a vital player. He played superbly at Emirates Stadium [earlier this season] and really West Ham deserved to hang on for a draw in that game. They were slightly unlucky. He is the heart of the team and players play better when he is around. I think they will keep hold of him, certainly until the end of the season. I don’t think he will go in January because he signed a new deal at the start of the season. I think he is enjoying his football and seems to be up for the battle all the time.
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
They have quite a lot of injuries. On Tuesday, I think they only had 16 fit players and they had to move Matthew Upson to left back which was strange. They have brought in Wayne Bridge on loan this week and he should make his debut on Saturday. People like Danny Gabbidon, Kieron Dyer and Jack Collison are all suffering. I think a few others have got niggles but they will have to play I think. They are struggling like most teams at this stage of the season.