Five Talking Points - Arsenal

Andy Carroll


West Ham United welcome Arsenal to London Stadium for the first time this weekend, determined to bounce back from their midweek EFL Cup exit.

The Hammers will be without a host of important players, but last season's hat-trick hero Andy Carroll is set to return after three months out with a knee injury.

Here are the big topics for discussion ahead of Saturday's 5.30pm Premier League kick-off.

AC does it

Andy Carroll is set to be involved in just his second Premier League squad of the season after recovering from the knee injury he suffered in UEFA Europa League action in Romania in August.

The England centre forward returns at an opportune time for Slaven Bilic, who has lost Diafra Sakho to injury just days after the Senegalese star had himself returned.

Carroll scored a hat-trick in the respective fixture at the Boleyn Ground in April and will be eager to repeat that display at London Stadium - a ground he scored two thumping headers at against Juventus in pre-season.

It may be too much to expect the No9 to repeat that level of performance on his comeback, but Carroll's size and approach undoubtedly causes Arsenal problems.

Bilic will hope that trend continues on Saturday.

Dimitri Payet

Payet versus Ozil

Ever since they met at the Emirates on the opening day of last season, social media has been alive with banter between West Ham United and Arsenal fans concerning the relative merits of Dimitri Payet and Mesut Ozil.

The Hammers’ France playmaker and Gunners’ German creator were ranked second and first respectively when it came to key passes made last season – Ozil made 146 to Payet’s 119.

Ozil may have recorded 19 assists to Payet’s 12, but the West Ham player scored nine goals to the Arsenal man’s five.

So far this season, Payet has the edge, making 46 key passes to Ozil’s 30 and recording five assists to the German’s one.


Diafra Sakho will not be the only Hammer to be missing from Slaven Bilic's squad this weekend, forcing the Croatian to make more changes to his starting XI.

Aaron Cresswell and Michail Antonio are also set to miss out with thigh injuries, leaving the manager with decisions to make in the wing-back positions.

With Alvaro Arbeloa and Arthur Masuaku his only two senior full-backs available, will he revert to a back four to accommodate them?

Or will Bilic deploy either Edimilson Fernandes or former Arsenal youngster Havard Nordtveit at right wing-back and stick with his recently-favoured 3-5-1-1 formation?

Up front, it may be too early for Carroll to start, meaning rookie Ashley Fletcher or Italy international Simone Zaza will be handed a place in the team.

Ashley Fletcher

Another chance for Fletch

Speaking of Ashley Fletcher, the centre forward will have taken great confidence from his EFL Cup strike at Old Trafford.

Having scored against the best goalkeeper in the Premier League in David de Gea in midweek, facing Arsenal's Petr Cech should hold little fear for the former Manchester United man.

Fletcher possesses the physical attributes and attitude to be a top-level player, with his manager singing his praises and speaking highly of his potential.

On Saturday, he could well be given another chance to realise it.

Home comforts

After three difficult away matches, West Ham return home to London Stadium looking to kick-off a busy December with a morale-boosting win.

With a daunting trip to Anfield being followed by home games with struggling Burnley and Hull City, the Hammers will be targeting seven points from their next four Premier League matches.

To achieve that, Slaven Bilic's side will need a large and partisan home crowd right behind them.

A repeat of the atmosphere under the lights for the EFL Cup win over Chelsea will go a long way to helping them to begin an important run of fixtures with a welcome win.