Tactically speaking - Arsenal

An in-depth analysis of how West Ham United’s opening match of the 2015/16 Barclays Premier League season could pan out
Sunday’s trip to the Emirates Stadium is one which West Ham United could be forgiven for making full of trepidation.

The Hammers have not beaten Arsenal on home soil since becoming the first opposition club to do so back in April 2007, when Bobby Zamora’s lobbed winner and Robert Green’s heroics secured a shock 1-0 success.

Victory for Slaven Bilic’s side on his first Barclays Premier League match in charge would be something approaching as big a surprise as that win was eight years ago, especially considering Arsenal showed good form in winning the Community Shield last weekend.

So, how will each club approach their Sunday lunchtime clash in north London?


Arsenal’s approach to their football under Arsene Wenger is well-known the world over – pass, move, pass, move, score.

What has been added to that mantra is a steel and solidity that has helped the Gunners emerge as real Barclays Premier League title contenders this season.

Arsenal finished third last season, conceding just 36 goals in 38 league matches. With Petr Cech joining from Chelsea this summer, Wenger’s side looks even stronger in defence.

With attacking threats provided from all over the pitch, devastating pace on the counter-attack, and the ability to keep the ball and pass their opponents into submission still very much there, Arsenal look to be a formidable outfit.

Formation-wise, the Gunners are likely to adopt a 4-4-1-1 system against West Ham, but who will play as the centre forward remains to be seen. Olivier Giroud is an all-round striker who has five goals in five games against West Ham, while the speedy Theo Walcott could look to continue his own fine record against the Hammers if he is selected in the same position he occupied against Chelsea at Wembley.

Behind the centre forward, Arsenal’s three attacking midfielders are vital to their success. Against Chelsea, match-winner Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Germany international Mesut Ozil played alongside Spanish playmaker Santi Cazorla.

Of the three, Oxlade-Chamberlain is more of an old-fashioned winger, with the strength, pace and skill to beat his full-back on the outside, but with the added weapon of being able to cut inside onto his left foot.

Ozil is a passer who will play behind the centre forward and drift inside from the left channel, picking through balls and making clever runs between the lines.

Cazorla will nominally start on the left wing, but the dimuntive player will pop up all over the pitch. Elusive and two-footed, Cazorla combines well with Ozil.

Behind them, Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey sit in front of the back four, collecting the ball from the centre-backs when in possession and pressing the opposition when out of it.

Defensively, Arsenal always employ attacking full-backs and that remains the case with young Frenchman Hector Bellerin on the right and Spaniard Nacho Monreal on the left. Both are quick, athletic, but can leave space in behind for the opposition to exploit.

In the middle, tall German Per Mertesacker and Frenchman Laurent Koscielny have developed a good partnership. Mertesacker is a dominant stopper, while Koscielny has pace and ability on the ball.

Possible team: (4-4-1-1) Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Ozil, Giroud

West Ham United

West Ham United have teamed up with football stats website WhoScored.com to preview Sunday’s Barclays Premier League opener with Arsenal.

West Ham will have played six competitive UEFA Europa League games before Sunday’s London derby comes around and Slaven Bilic will hope his team are fit and ready to spring out of the blocks at the Emirates Stadium.

One player who is expected to be key for Bilic’s side against Arsenal is summer arrival Dimitri Payet. West Ham signalled their intention to better last season’s 12th-placed finish with the capture of the Frenchman, who enjoyed a hugely successful campaign for former side Marseille last term.

The 28-year-old gained a WhoScored.com rating of 7.62 in France’s top tier last season, a figure only three players bettered. As a result, his performances gained him a place in WhoScored.com’s Ligue 1 team of the season, with his 17 league assists contributing to that.

Following Stewart Downing’s move to Middlesbrough, Payet will be expected to undertake the role of creator-in-chief for the east London team and if he and the West Ham frontmen can strike up an instant understanding, the results could be devastating. Payet setting up former L’OM teammate Andre-Pierre Gignac was the most prolific assist to goalscorer combination in Ligue 1 last season, laying on six of the latter’s goals.

Boasting a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of ‘key passes’ – he completed 134 of them last season – Payet has the vision and creative capability to unlock any defence and Bilic needs this facet of the Frenchman’s game to be prevalent in north London on Sunday.

Payet was one of the headline grabbing signings in the Premier League this summer, and with 17 assists, seven goals and a 79.4 per cent pass-completion percentage last season, that should come as little surprise to anyone.

Now, the challenge is for the No27 to replicate that devastating form in the Barclays Premier League.
*WhoScored.com is a website and one of the fastest growing in the sports industry, specialising in the in-depth analysis of detailed football data. Follow @WhoScored on Twitter.