Arsenal will host West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday, April 15 (7:45 PM London time, 11:45 AM Pacific), in a Premier League match that should have been played over the last weekend, but was postponed because the Gunners had to play the FA Cup semifinals against Wigan.
Arsenal isn’t in a good moment in the Premier League. Their last victory was almost one month ago, when they defeated Spurs. Since then, they’ve lost two important matches away (0-6 against Chelsea and 0-3 against Everton) and tied against Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium.
Those results, along with Everton’s excellent moment (seven wins in a row) have led the Gunners to the fifth position, two points behind the Toffees. If they don’t return to the fourth place, they won’t qualify for the next Champions League, something that has never happened under Wenger’s management (Arsenal finished in the top four in the last seventeen Premier League tournaments).
However, it isn’t all bad for the Gunners at present. Last Saturday, they tied 1-1 against Wigan at Wembley, but won 4-2 in the penalty shoot-out, a result that enables them to play the FA Cup final against Hull City on May 17.
Arsenal have many injured players for Tuesday’s game. In addition to Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott, both out due to long-term injuries, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain, Lukas Podolski and Aaron Ramsey are doubtful, the three of them with slight muscular problems after Saturday’s match.
Mathieu Flamini is out too, not because of an injury, but because he’s suspended after seeing his tenth yellow card against Everton. Furthermore, left back Nacho Monreal is also in doubt (leg injury), while midfielders Mesut Özil (hamstring) and Serge Gnabry (knee) seem to be out, since Wenger didn’t mentioned them when he spoke about the possible comebacks.
Finally, center back Laurent Koscielny (calf) and midfielder Tomas Rosicky (thigh) may/might come back on Tuesday, according to the boss.
Wenger spoke about the Gunners fight with Everton for the fourth position, taking into account the next Champions League: “I believe that they have difficult games, and we have difficult games. We want to focus now on what we know we can do. We have a more complete squad and we want to win our games, no matter what Everton does. We want to finish in a strong way.” [source]
On the other hand, West Ham are in the 11th position with 37 points, seven points above relegation zone. That’s not such a big thing, but taking into account that they’ve finished the last year in the 19th place, and that in the beginning of February they still were in relegation zone, this is a great improvement.
However, they lost three out of the last four games. The last one was against the leader Liverpool, that defeated the Hammers on April 6 at Boleyn Ground.
If they win 6 points in the 5 remaining matches, they’ll ensure the permanence in the Premier League, so a victory at the Emirates Stadium will practically drop to zero the probability of a relegation to second division.
Midfielder Joey O’Brien is back in training after having his shoulder dislocated and he will be available for Tuesday match, while Italian striker Marco Boriello is out due to a calf injury. In addition, defenders James Collins (calf) and George McCartney (hamstring) and midfielder Kevin Nolan (hamstring too) are in doubt but very unlikely to play.
The boss Sam Allardyce spoke in press conference about their rivals: “Certainly with Arsenal’s game load and some of the injuries they have, then yes they will be weaker than they possibly could be. They keep a Champions League place for all those years. They keep a squad of 25 international players and they’re playing at the Emirates, so whatever difficulties they have it’s still a hugely tough fixture for ourselves.” [source]
In my opinion, this will be a very entertaining match. Arsenal will look for the victory from the first minute, while West Ham may conform with a tie. The Hammers lost their last games against the top teams (Liverpool, Everton, Manchester United), and I think that will be the case on Tuesday, because although the Gunners have plenty of injured players, they still have a great squad and they play at home. My prediction is a 3-1 victory for Arsenal.
TV Info: NBC Sports Network & Sky Sports 1 HD (UK).