Injury-plagued West Ham face Arsenal’s babes in the cup

Injury plagued West Ham face Arsenals babes in the cupWest Ham v Arsenal, FA Cup, January 3, 2010

West Ham 5/1; Draw 16/5; Arsenal 4/6

This third round clash between two London clubs has evoked memories of West Ham’s famous 1-0 win over Arsenal in the FA Cup final in 1980 (16/1 to repeat the score). At the time, the Hammers were a second division team and shocked the Gunners thanks to a Trevor Brooking header.

Such is the difference between these two sides coming into this encounter that a win for the home side would be as much of a shock as that sweltering day at Wembley just under thirty years ago.

Gianfranco Zola could probably do without this tie. A poor performance at Spurs on Monday has left them level on points with Bolton and Hull in the relegation zone and a lengthy injury list. Throw in the financial problems at the club, uncertainty over who might take over and the fact a number of big players could leave and the situation is looking rather bleak at the Boleyn.

A whole host of first choice players will be missing for the visit of in-form Arsenal, including defenders Herita Ilunga, Danny Gabidon, midfielders Mark Noble, Scott Parker and Keiron Dyer and strikers Zavon Hines and Carlton Cole. (West Ham are 11/1 to win both halves.)

To add to their worries up top, Guillermo Franco is suspended after picking up a booking at White Hart Lane and Zola has a choice between Frank Nouble, a surprise signing from Chelsea’s youth team in the summer and Freddie Sears, who has been recalled from a loan spell at Crystal Palace after failing to score a goal in 18 appearances for the Eagles.

West Ham will be up against it and it will be up to youngsters James Tomkins, Junior Stanislas and Jack Collison to make things happen alongside the Italian swiftly becoming a cult hero at Upton Park, Alessandro Diamanti. Zola will remind his players that they produced a 1-1 draw with league leaders Chelsea just a couple of weeks ago and came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Arsenal in October.

Arsene Wenger’s side are flying and even though “The Professor” will likely rest players ahead of an important clash with Bolton next Wednesday, Arsenal’s youngsters are usually eager to impress, as we see annually in the Carling Cup. (Arsenal are EVS to score in both halves.)

The Arsenal side should include Alex Song, his last game before heading to the African Nations in Angola and Aaron Ramsey who scored a cracker at Fratton Park on Wednesday night. Jack Wilshere, Craig Eastmond, Jack Wilshere, Fran Merida and Carlos Vela are other possible players for Wenger to choose from to rest his first choice stars for the clash with Bolton that could see the Gunners close in to just a point behind leaders Chelsea.

The Gunners also have their injury problems, long-term absentees Robin van Persie, Nicklas Bendtner and Theo Walcott, Cesc Fabregas and Denilson are also out for a short time. The trouble for West Ham is that whoever Wenger picks, we can expect Arsenal to dominate possession and it would be a major surprise if they didn’t score. (West Ham are 11/2 to keep a clean sheet, 2/13 against.)

A vociferous crowd at Upton Park will get behind their youngsters and this match could be a good indicator of the up and coming talent coming through two of the most famous youth academies in English football. In their current state, West Ham will probably lose and pick up some more injuries for good measure.

101gg predicts: West Ham 1 – Arsenal 3 (15/1)

West Ham 5/1; Draw 16/5; Arsenal 4/6

Full match odds here.