Arsenal take on West Ham in the Premier League at Upton Park on Saturday.
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FEARSOME FULL BACK - GIBBS' KEY ROLE
Kieran Gibbs has been one of Arsenal's most consistent performers so far this season and has been rewarded with a recall to the England squad for the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland. In both defence and attack, the 23-year-old has excelled and has won more than half of his duels in the Premier League.
Gibbs was a winger earlier in his career, and that is obvious when you see him in full flow on the left flank. Arguably his best performance of the campaign from an attacking sense came in the 6-1 defeat of Southampton last month when he played a key role in the visitors' two own goals. The 23-year-old offers the team genuine width on the overlap, and Figure 1 shows just how influential he was in the Saints' half.
But it is the defensive side of his game that is most likely to be tested at Upton Park on Saturday, as West Ham look to cross from deep in an effort to find the head of Andy Carroll. The Arsenal full back faced a similar test at Stoke earlier this season, and Figure 2 shows how he defended deeper and made fewer runs forward in an effort to restrict the Potters' time and space. Gibbs will have to be similarly disciplined to keep Carroll and West Ham quiet this weekend.
Figure 1 - Gibbs v Stoke Figure 1 - Gibbs v Southampton
PLAYER COMPARISON - VERMAELEN v CARROLL
Carroll has looked like a player reborn since his loan move from Liverpool to West Ham this summer - although injury has restricted his progress somewhat. However, the England striker fits perfectly into the Sam Allardyce blueprint and has the potential to cause the Arsenal backline major problems on Saturday.
If the Gunners are to keep the 23-year-old quiet, they may well deploy Thomas Vermaelen once more. The Belgian put in one of the most dominant defensive displays of last season in marking Carroll out of the game when Liverpool visited Emirates Stadium, and the striker eventually made way after 71 fruitless minutes.
The battle between the pair could have a major say on the outcome of this weekend's match, and the stats suggest it will be fiercely contested. Both players have won 16 aeriel duels so far this season, with Carroll possessing a slightly better success rate of 64 per cent to Vermaelen's 61.5 per cent. But the Arsenal captain has won far more of his overall duels, 62.7 per cent to 45.5 per cent.
- Arsenal have lost just one of their last 11 Premier League away games (W6 D4 L1)
- Arsène Wenger has won just two of his nine away games as a manager in Premier League head to head meetings with Sam Allardyce (W2 D3 L4), the first one v Bolton in April 2002 and the last one v Blackburn in August 2010
- There have been four penalties awarded in the last four Premier League meetings between West Ham and Arsenal
- Arsenal have won six and lost none of the last eight Premier League encounters with West Ham
- The Hammers were the last Premier League side to win at Highbury and the first team to win at the Emirates Stadium
- West Ham have lost just one of their last 16 league games at Upton Park (W8 D7 L1)
- Arsenal have only had fewer points after six games of a Premier League season in two of the previous 20 seasons, seven in 2011/12 and five in 1994-95
- Only one team in Premier League history has had fewer than 10 points after six games and gone on to win the title - Manchester Utd 2002/03
- Gervinho has scored three goals from just three shots on target in the Premier League this season
- West Ham scored the most goals from set plays in the 2011/12 Championship, while the last three league goals Arsenal have conceded have come from dead-ball situations
- West Ham picked up eight yellow cards in their last match (v QPR), an all-time Premier League record
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