Preview by Numbers: West Ham United v. Arsenal

Boleyn Ground, London
Saturday, April 9
7:45 a.m. EDT, 12:45 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Craig Pawson
    • Assistants: Lee Betts and Darren Cann
    • 4th Official: Jonathan Moss
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 0 - 2 West Ham
  • This Match, Last Year: West Ham 1 - 2 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 60 Arsenal wins, 34 West Ham wins, 38 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-L-L-D-W-W
  • West Ham's League Form: D-W-W-W-D-D

...from 1.9% to 2.0%, but hey! Math!!!

Leicester's odds of winning the league shot up to a healthy 87.9% thanks to their win and Tottenham's 1-1 draw with Liverpool. A title for the Foxes is starting to feel inevitable, since they're so plucky and handballs in the box aren't penalties for them. But, I digress.

Arsenal have a relatively favorable fixture list the rest of the way (which is a meaningless statement considering Arsenal have proven that they can lose to just about anybody this season.) The two trickiest remaining fixtures for the Gunners are their trip to Manchester City in May and this fixture tomorrow. West Ham have been excellent all season, especially at home, but will regret their dropped points against struggling Crystal Palace last week.

If Arsenal have any intention of finishing this season on a strong note, regardless of whether they can catch the teams ahead of them, they have got to start winning games like this one again.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Cazorla (knee,) Rosicky (match fitness,) Wilshere (match fitness)
Doubts: Flamini (hamstring,) Ramsey (thigh)

We'll start with the more salacious news, as Jack Wilshere found himself in the middle of a fracas at a club last weekend. I'm sure you've heard about it by now, but the tabloids suggest that the midfielder was involved at a confrontation at Café de Paris, which is of course Spanish for "coffee from Paris." It's just the kind of thing you've begrudgingly begun to accept from Wilshere, to have been caught out in an incident while he's still rehabbing from injury. Then again, as Arsene Wenger has pointed out, the team was off the next day.

He and Tomas Rosicky are both expected to feature for the under-21s in a game against Newcastle United tonight which, if you read my preview last week, you will recall I thought was happening then.

Elsewhere, Mathieu Flamini (hamstring) and Aaron Ramsey (thigh) have been moved into the doubts column, leaving Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as the only injury absentees.

I would expect Petr Cech to come back in goal after he sat on the bench last week. The outfield is likely to remain unchanged, with Wenger saying "I'm reluctant to change what works." Damn straight. That would, of course, imply a continued stay on the bench for formerly established regulars such as Per Mertesacker, Olivier Giroud, and Theo Walcott.

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Elneny, Alexis, Iwobi, Ozil, Welbeck.

West Ham Squad News

Out: Byram (muscular,) Collins (hamstring)

Carl Jenkinson, who was spending his second season at West Ham on loan from Arsenal, would not have been allowed to play in this match anyway due to the loan terms. Of course, Jenkinson's season ended on January 23 with an ACL tear. Technically, that ended his loan and I believe he's been rehabbing at Arsenal, so for all intents and purposes, he should be included in Arsenal's injury list now...

West Ham will be without Sam Byram and James Collins with muscle injuries. Meanwhile, Cheikhou Kouyate, who has scored in his last two matches against Arsenal, was sent off against Crystal Palace last weekend; his red card, however, was overturned, meaning he is available to score again tomorrow.

Arsenal will have their hands full defending Dimitri Payet. The in-form winger has scored six goals in his last eight matches for West Ham, including a ridiculous free kick against Crystal Palace last week. That doesn't include the ridiculous goal he scored for France against Russia during the last international break, either.

Predicted XI: Adrian, Antonio, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Noble, Kouyate, Lanzini, Payet, Valencia, Sakho.

Current Form

Arsenal have won two straight. Two! It's the first time since February 7 and 14 (against Bournemouth and Leicester) that Arsenal have won consecutive games. Their only win in between the late winner against Leicester and the 2-0 win at Everton before the international break was an FA Cup replay against a Championship side. Astonishing stuff. But, that's all in the past now, and if they can keep extending this winning streak, who knows what will happen. Their longest winning streak of the season in the league, for your information, is five.

After beating Arsenal on opening day, West Ham came home and lost two straight at Upton Park, against Leicester and Bournemouth. They have not lost at home since, which has propelled them to sixth in the table and an FA Cup quarterfinal replay against Manchester United (also at home) this coming midweek. The Hammers' only losses during the second half of this season have come against Newcastle (?!) on January 16 and Southampton on February 6.

Match Facts

On the opening day of the season, West Ham flew out of the gates with an emphatic 2-0 win at the Emirates. Cheikhou Kouyate scored from a set piece just before halftime, which had been misjudged by Petr Cech, to give the Hammers the lead and Mauro Zarate added a second from a defensive error on 57 minutes. Arsenal had 62% of the possession and took 22 shots, but failed to hit the net, which I guess proved to be a pretty accurate prediction for a lot of this season.

The win was West Ham's first against Arsenal in nine tries in the league. The winning streak for Arsenal against West Ham had been 10 straight across all competitions, dating back to a 2-2 draw at Upton Park in October of 2009. They had been unbeaten in 15 as well, dating back to a 1-0 loss in April of 2007, in which West Ham became the first road club to win at the Emirates.

In this fixture last year, halfway between Boxing Day and New Year's Day, Arsenal won 2-1. Ex-Arsenal midfielder Alex Song seemed to have an early opening goal, but it was ruled offside. He refused to celebrate the goal, and looked silly in the process, especially because he went ballistic when he realized it didn't count. Arsenal struck twice before halftime to take a 2-0 lead through a Santi Cazorla penalty and a Danny Welbeck goal, but Cheikhou Kouyate's 51st minute goal set up a grandstand finish.

The Referee

The referee is South Yorkshire-based Craig Pawson. Arsenal's record with Pawson has been mixed; this year, Pawson has been in the middle for Arsenal's 5-2 win at Leicester, their 0-0 draw at Stoke City, and their 3-2 loss at Manchester United. Last year, Arsenal's record was split as well, as they defeated Burnley at home before losing to Southampton. So, I don't know, flip a coin?

As for West Ham, they have only seen Pawson once this season, for their 2-2 draw with Manchester City a little over two months ago. City came from behind twice in that match to take a point from Upton Park, including scoring once from the penalty spot.

Around the League
  • Saturday: Aston Villa v. Bournemouth; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Saturday: Crystal Palace v. Norwich City; Selhurst Park, London
  • Saturday: Southampton v. Newcastle United; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. Chelsea; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Saturday: Watford v. Everton; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Saturday (late): Manchester City v. West Bromwich Albion; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Sunday (early): Sunderland v. Leicester City; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Sunday (late): Liverpool v. Stoke City; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Sunday (late): Tottenham Hotspur v. Manchester United; White Hart Lane, London
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is an Irish poet... if you consider these previews poetry... and that I'm American of Irish descent... You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for more "poetry".