Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger and his side travel to West Ham United on Saturday so, to find out more, tactical expert Michael Cox and local journalist Dave Evans gave their pre-match views.
Sam Allardyce gave Arsenal plenty of problems during his time in charge of Bolton, and West Ham will offer a physical threat at Upton Park this weekend. So far this season, West Ham have committed the most fouls and picked up the most bookings in the Premier League, so Arsenal will have to be up for a fight in the centre of midfield.
West Ham have also won the second most aerial duels in the league (behind Stoke) primarily due to the threat of their central striker. Andy Carroll was signed on loan to play as a target man, but Carlton Cole has done well in his absence through injury – whoever Allardyce chooses, West Ham will hit the ball long quickly and get support up towards the lone striker.
It’s 4-5-1 without the ball and more 4-2-3-1 when West Ham do have possession – and although they get the ball into the final third quickly, don’t underestimate their quality around the box.
Kevin Nolan has a knack of arriving in the area at exactly the right time, reviving his good partnership with Carroll from their Newcastle days. Whereas Nolan collects knock-downs, right-winger Ricardo Vaz Te will look to collect flick-ons, darting towards goal. On the left, Matt Jarvis can duck inside or outside the full back, and will look to hang balls up to the far post.
The central midfield partnership will be Mohamed Diame and Mark Noble. Diame breaks play up and keeps his distribution simple, whereas Noble is more of an all-action player. Santi Cazorla will look to find space in behind these two, and it’s worth Arsenal trying to slide balls between West Ham’s midfield into him quickly, as Allardyce’s side have a good shape when they get their midfield behind the ball.
At the back, Winston Reid and James Collins are decent defenders, but relatively poor in possession. If pressed, they can make mistakes. The full backs can be vulnerable to direct movement, so forward runs towards goal from Arsenal’s wingers may be a promising route to goal.
DAVE EVANS, NEWHAM READER
Sam Allardyce will play a 4-2-3-1 system - he calls it the Spanish formation, whatever that might mean! He plays a lone striker but insists the two wide men help out all the time. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, it depends on who they play really. I think Andy Carroll will come back into the side on Saturday. I am sure he will want to impress against Arsenal and Carlton Cole has not been playing that well in the lone striker role.
Mohamed Diame has been the engine room in midfield for West Ham so far this season. He has really impressed, which is a bit of a surprise as a lot of people raised their eyebrows when he joined. But he has proved to be a good signing, and has worked well alongside Mark Noble and Kevin Nolan. Those three have been the heart of the team.
It has been a good start to the season, but they have been helped by the fixture list. If they could have chosen who to start with, it would be pretty close to who they have actually played. The Arsenal game is almost the start of the season for West Ham as they face a lot of the top teams coming up in the next two months. The fact they have so many points already means they can play with more freedom and attack these sides, and anything they get will be a bonus.
They will try to bully Arsenal on Saturday - there is no point in sitting back as they will just get picked off. Sam will keep it tight, and I would imagine they will be hustling and bustling in midfield, trying to stop Arsenal playing as much as possible. That is the way they play anyway, but it will be even more important on Saturday. Carroll will play an important role.
Joey O'Brien has a hamstring tweak and I would expect him to miss out as they do like to handle him with care, as he has had long-term injury problems before. If that is the case I would expect George McCartney to come in for him. Winston Reid was poleaxed by his own keeper on Monday and was flat out for a while, but he should be OK. But Jack Collison will definitely miss out as he has not played at all this season with a knee injury.
The way West Ham are playing, I can see them getting a 1-1 draw on Saturday.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