West Ham v Arsenal, Premier League, October 25, 2009
As West Ham look to pick up only their second win of the season, they should take heart from the fact that one of Arsenalâ€™s old failings looks to have returned in Holland this week.
Arsenal were cruising away at AZ and should have wrapped up a comfortable win against the Dutch champions. Instead they failed to score a second and were undone by a set-piece in injury time. Arsene Wenger described his side as â€œnaiveâ€ and this should give heart to the Hammers who have not picked up maximum points since the victory over Wolves on the opening day of the campaign.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis admitted last week that he was delighted his side had seen off West Ham who probably had their strongest team out of the season. It has been a struggle for Gianfranco Zola so far in 2009/2010 and the little Italian looks more and more deflated after every match.
Scott Parker (8/1 to score) returns for this match after a spell out with injury and the Hammers will be desperate for the points after they were on the wrong end of James Beattieâ€™s brace last week. Zolaâ€™s side were probably the more likely team to win the match at the Britannia when the score was 1-1 but they appear to lack a cutting edge to their play this season.
The Hammersâ€™ reliance on Carlton Cole (8/1 to score first) is well known and the former Chelsea striker undoubtedly needs more help up front. But, there are also problems at the back. (West Ham are 9/2 to keep a clean sheet.) Zola and Steve Clarke were praised last season for creating such an organized and resolute side at Upton Park but they have not bought this kind of form into the new season.
West Hamâ€™s defending at Manchester City and at home to Fulham, in their last home match, was schoolboy-like and questions are now being asked of the sale of James Collins to Aston Villa. England hopefuls Matthew Upson (16/1 to score against his previous employers) and Robert Green have struggled in recent weeks and in particular Upson seems to be having trouble alongside James Tomkins in the centre of the defence.
If West Ham can keep it tight at the back against Arsenalâ€™s fluent attacking players, they do have the forwards to get the Boleyn rocking. Alessandro Diamanti (11/1 to score first) has already earned cult status and could well be the new Paolo Di Canio, Zavon Hines (14/1 to score & West Ham win) and Junior Stanislas, the two latest graduates of the â€œAcademy,â€ have also looked like outstanding prospects.
But, Arsenal will likely be fired up for this London derby after throwing away two Champions League points in Holland. Theo Walcott is definitely out whilst Samir Nasri, who made his return for the reserves in midweek, is unlikely to be part of the squad. In goal, Vito Mannone looks to have established himself as the Gunners number one and this is exactly the sort of fixture that should help the young Italian to progress.
Tomas Rosicky (14/5 to score & Arsenal win), who missed the match at AZ, should return and â€œLittle Mozartâ€ is the perfect accompaniment to the other potential match winners in the Arsenal side. Robin van Persie, Andrey Arshavin (6/4 for either Van Persie or Arshavin to score first) and Cesc Fabregas (5/2 to score & Arsenal win) proved how well they can play together with the goal in Holland and there is genuine hope that these three can lead Arsenal to a title challenge.
West Ham are due a result eventually, Gianfranco Zola may have to wait though and the Hammers could do well to simply avoid the type of hammering the Gunners have already handed out to the likes of Everton and Blackburn.
101gg predicts: West Ham 1 â€“ Arsenal 3 (9/1)
Full match odds here.