Before every Arsenal fixture, we'll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners' next opponents.
Arsene Wenger's side take on West Ham at Emirates Stadium on Tuesday, to find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and journalist Dave Evans.
A meeting between Arsene Wenger and Sam Allardyce guarantees one of the Premier League’s most obvious stylistic contrasts: Arsenal boast the league’s third-best pass completion rate, West Ham the second worst.
This isn’t a statistic Allardyce is particularly concerned by, however. He concentrates on numbers involving crosses, where West Ham are one of the most dangerous sides in the division.
"West Ham’s midfield should be comprised of left-footed Matt Taylor, now playing a central role after spending much of his career out on the flank"
The signing of Andy Carroll indicated that Allardyce was placing huge emphasis upon crossing, and the subsequent signings of Stewart Downing and Matt Jarvis were intended to supply Carroll with a stream of deliveries from wide.
In recent weeks, however, Allardyce has only fielded one of these wingers, Downing, and has instead played Mohamed Diame on the opposite flank. A physical player but capable of dangerous forward bursts in possession, Diame tucks inside and helps West Ham battle in the centre.
Downing is the only pure crosser, and has a better understanding with Carroll at West Ham than the duo cultivated in their disappointing spell together at Liverpool.
Another bonus for Carroll is the presence of Kevin Nolan, with whom he had an excellent relationship at Newcastle. The West Ham skipper is remarkably uninvolved in build-up play for a central midfielder, but specialises at meeting Carroll’s knock-downs and flick-ons, and is perhaps the best ‘second ball’ player in the Premier League. As West Ham’s top scorer, his dangerous runs must be tracked.
West Ham’s midfield should be comprised of left-footed Matt Taylor, now playing a central role after spending much of his career out on the flank. He gets through lots of running, allowing Mark Noble to sit deep in midfield and start West Ham’s attacks with his reliable, methodical distribution out wide.
Almost everything goes through Noble - he plays 51 passes per game, with West Ham’s next most frequent passer down on 29. Preventing him from getting on the ball is an excellent way of blunting the Irons’ attacking play.
The lack of possession play means West Ham spend long periods under pressure - but only three teams in the league have kept more clean sheets, even if nearly half of these matches have ended 0-0.
The return to full fitness of New Zealand international Winston Reid, a commanding centre back who is excellent in the air, has been of great benefit.
Arsenal must be prepared to battle in the air on Tuesday night, but it might surprise many to discover the Gunners have, at 55 per cent, the second-highest aerial duel success rate in the division (behind Stoke), whereas West Ham’s is only 50 per cent.
DAVE EVANS, NEWHAM READER
It's been an up-and-down season for West Ham United so far.
They started OK and then injuries set in. They were missing Andy Carroll right from the start and there was a huge problem in terms of scoring goals.
Then they started losing centre halves, which was a big problem as well. In one game they had to play four full backs across the back four because there was no one else.
"Mark Noble has been West Ham's most impressive player - he's played in every league match this season and has run the team from the centre of midfield"
Since Carroll returned and the centre halves have come back, things have turned around. West Ham won four out of four in February after drawing at Stamford Bridge at the end of January. That spell of games turned the season around and now they are just about safe and are on course for a mid-table finish.
West Ham gave Arsenal a good game the last time the sides met. They went in front and it was an error from the goalkeeper that got Arsenal back into it. It was at a time when West Ham were struggling with injuries but it was a close match.
Over the whole season, Mark Noble has been West Ham's most impressive player - he's played in every league match this season and has run the team from the centre of midfield.
Some people were tipping him to make the World Cup squad. That hasn't quite happened - there's a lot of competition about - but to be mentioned is both impressive and merited.
Adrian has been good in goal since he came into the team. He's made the No 1 spot his own and kept four clean sheets in a row at one stage, enjoying a hugely impressive game at Chelsea.
When the back four are all fit, West Ham are very strong and don't let in many goals. West Ham have kept 13 clean sheets this season and when they are all playing, they can certainly do the business. Carroll makes a huge difference to the team as well.
West Ham haven't played since last Sunday and I think that if they can hold Arsenal for the first half an hour or so, they might have a chance if Arsenal tire after the break.
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