Five Talking Points – Arsenal

Slaven Bilic


The major subjects of discussion as West Ham United prepare to tackle Arsenal at Emirates Stadium...


1. Three in, one out?

After four consecutive defeats, Slaven Bilic will again delve into his tactical bag of tricks to select a team he hopes will end that run at the Emirates.

Last season, he selected the unheralded teenager Reece Oxford, who produced a performance that belied his tender years in a stunning 2-0 Premier League success.

This time around, Bilic hopes to be able to call upon the fit-again Michail Antonio, while his wild card could be Senegal striker Diafra Sakho, who is eager to play his part after four months out after undergoing back surgery.

With Aaron Cresswell sidelined with a minor muscle injury, Arthur Masuaku looks set to come in at left-back, where he will hope for better fortune than his last Premier League start – a 5-1 home defeat by Arsenal in December.

Finally, captain Mark Noble was left on the bench at Hull City, but the midfielder’s experience and work-rate could be considered vital.


2. Happy Aluminium anniversary!

Robert Green
The dictionary definition of ‘Aluminium’ describes it as a silvery-white, soft, nonmagnetic, ductile metal which will bend without breaking when under stress.

Well, this week marks the tenth – or Aluminium – anniversary of West Ham United’s amazing 1-0 Premier League win over Arsenal at Emirates Stadium.

Alan Curbishley’s team were bent all over north London that afternoon in April 2007, when the Gunners unleashed 29 shots to the Hammers’ one, only for Bobby Zamora’s sole looping effort to land in Jens Lehmann’s net.

At the other end, Robert Green produced the performance of his life and West Ham did not break, earning the third of seven wins in nine matches as part of their ‘Great Escape’ from relegation.

Another ‘Aluminium’ performance on Wednesday evening would make it an anniversary well worth celebrating!


3. Wexit

A section of Arsenal supporters have been campaigning for some time now for manager Arsene Wenger to end his 21-year reign.

Flags have been flown at matches, a fan-run YouTube channel has attracted millions of views, while this week a group of unhappy Gunners even took their protest to the club’s London Colney training ground.

The tabloids have wittily labelled the potential departure of the Frenchman ‘Wexit’ but, on a more serious note, the uncertainty and dissatisfaction over the manager’s position could easily spread onto the pitch on Wednesday evening.


4. At a loss without Laurent?

Andy Carroll
While West Ham United will head to north London without Winston Reid and Angelo Ogbonna, Arsenal also go into the game lacking an influential central defender.

Laurent Koscielny limped off in Sunday’s 2-2 Premier League draw with Manchester City and his place is reportedly set to be handed to Gabriel.

The Brazilian had a nightmare against Andy Carroll at the Boleyn Ground back in April, when the No9 scored an unforgettable hat-trick in a thrilling 3-3 draw.

The substitution of Koscielny cost Arsenal dear in both legs of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie with Bayern Munich and the Hammers will hope his absence leads to more uncertainty at the back for the Gunners.


5. Goals galore

Whoever comes out on top at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday evening, the likelihood is that there will be plenty of goals scored.

West Ham United have conceded at least two in their last four Premier League matches and no clean sheets in their last nine dating back to a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace at London Stadium on 14 January.

Arsenal have conceded at least two in five of their last six Premier League games, while two of their three clean sheets kept since the start of February came in Emirates FA Cup ties against non-league clubs.

In the last six Premier League meetings between the two, 24 goals have been scored – an average of four per game.