View on the Opposition - Arsenal

Freelance journalist and editor of The False Nine Hugo Greenhalgh lifts the lid on Saturday's opponents Arsenal
Freelance journalist and editor of The False Nine, Hugo Greenhalgh, lifts the lid on Saturday's opponents Arsenal 

What have you made of Arsenal’s season?

“I think it’s just starting to have a bit of substance. We were never challenging for the title and some of the European games have been disappointing. But now we’re back in the top four, chasing second and going to Wembley, so overall it’s been a pretty positive season. An FA Cup final and a top three finish would be an improvement from last season.”

How big was the win over Manchester United in the FA Cup on Monday?

“I think it’s massive for our momentum. It was a chance to prove that things are going in the right direction. We can take a lot of confidence from Monday and hopefully take that into the league.”

Which players have been in good form of late?

“I think Arsene Wenger deserves a lot of credit for having faith in Francis Coquelin. He was playing on loan in the Championship a couple of months ago. Now, he’s had a really positive impact on our league form, his performances have been excellent and he seems to be improving with each game.

“I think Santi Cazorla dropping slightly deeper has been good. It’s allowed him to pick up more passes, he’s the link between defence and attack.

“It goes without saying that Alexis Sanchez has had an amazing first season, I’ve been really impressed with him, particularly his attitude and work rate.”

You were at the reverse fixture, when Arsenal won 2-1 at the Boleyn Ground earlier in the season, what did you make of that game?

“West Ham played pretty well from what I remember even though Arsenal probably deserved the win. It was a display that I’ve come to expect from Arsenal in away games, where we’re happy to concede a bit more possession.

“Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had a good game and he got an assist. We played West Ham at a time when they were above us in the league and it was vital we got three points. It seemed like a very good result.”

What have you made of West Ham’s season in general?

“I’ve been very impressed. The players that Sam Allardyce has bought in have had a really positive impact. Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia have been a bit of a revelation and he’s found a new lease of life in Stewart Downing.

“There’s a lot to be positive. I think there’s a big step between being a mediocre Premier League team and a good team that have occasional bad performances and I think West Ham have bridged that gap.”

Would you like to see Carl Jenkinson back at Arsenal next season?

“I think every Arsenal fan would want him back. It’s been a pleasant surprise to see how well he’s done at West Ham. He’s been one of the most consistent players this season. But, we’ve bought in Mathieu Debuchy and Hector Bellerin has stepped up so it’s going to be interesting to see what happens. He’s a good player, he’s still young and he can only go on and get better.”

Saturday’s game marks Alex Song’s first return to the Emirates since leaving, what reception will he get?

“At the start of the season, when he was doing very well, there was a lot of talk about how Arsenal missing a player like him and Wenger was criticized for him leaving. I think he’s actually far more creative than people give him credit for.

“He’s a very good player and he had a fantastic final season at Arsenal. When you look at our midfield options, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey aren’t guaranteed a starting position, so he’s not someone we need anymore. I think he’s got a point to prove because he found out the grass wasn’t greener at Barcelona.”   

Prediction for Saturday?

“I am confident that Arsenal will win following the win over Manchester United and West Ham’s form hasn’t been as good as it was, so 3-1 to Arsenal maybe.

“Olivier Giroud has a great home record against London clubs so I expect him to come back into the team and do well.”

How do you think Arsenal’s season will pan out?

“I think we’ll definitely get to the FA Cup final and finish in the top three. I think we’ll win in Monaco but still go out. That would represent a good season compared to season after season of finishing fourth which has inhibited our activity in the transfer market.”