After a tense 1-1 UEFA Europa League tie in Belgium, West Ham United’s second of two games in four days brings them back to London. This makes escaping Premier League (PL) relegation even more challenging. On their way home, the Hammers still have to play three of the top five Premier League teams, beginning with league leaders Arsenal.
The reverse H2H (L 3-1) was one of eight 2+ goal losses the Hammers experienced throughout their PL season, and with similar results at home against top-half competition like Manchester City, Brighton, Brentford, and Newcastle (L 5-1) and losses of 2-0, it does not seem likely that things will turn around at home. David Moyes, the manager, said this week that he has to get us closer to our levels after last weekend’s 1-0 victory away to Fulham, which is thought to have saved his job.
The more pessimistic Arsenal supporters will be praying that the 50-minute span during which they lost a 2-0 lead against Liverpool at Anfield (D 2-2) is not the start of their demise. First-placed Arsenal are nearly on a par with themselves. That came after seven straight victories in the Premier League, five of which had margins of two goals or more. Second-placed Manchester City is expected to continue its dominant play into April, so they cannot afford to slacken at any point.
Mikel Arteta, the team’s manager, has publicly urged his players to express their disappointment, but he would have preferred to see Eddie Nketiah, the cult hero who replaced Gabriel Jesus and scored six goals in competition before suffering an injury of his own, back on the practice field at the same time Jesus was rediscovering his scoring touch. Nketiah might be a commanding addition to a team that is currently scoring two goals per away PL game in 2022–23 if used as a replacement.
In six competitive games this season, including the reverse H2H, Saad Benrahma has scored West Ham’s first goal. Gabriel Martinelli has scored for the visitors in an impressive six of their eight straight PL games without a loss, including all four on the road.
One bright spot for Moyes in West Ham’s predicament is that all of his players are available, with the exception of Gianluca Scamacca (knee), who will miss Arsenal’s visit while he recovers from surgery.
The same group of players from the draw with Gent should therefore be available to the Hammers manager, although adjustments will undoubtedly be necessary due to the short turnaround, starting with the return of ex-Gunner Lukasz Fabianski in place of Areola in goal.
Declan Rice will captain the home team against his supporters, and Tomas Soucek, Kurt Zouma, Michail Antonio, and Lucas Paqueta are among the fresh-legged replacements available to Moyes. Lucas Paqueta missed last weekend’s victory at Craven Cottage due to an injury.
The news was not what Arsenal supporters wanted to hear ahead of games against Newcastle United, Manchester City, and Chelsea. Over at the Emirates, Arteta has ruled William Saliba (back) out of the derby and has acknowledged that the Frenchman may not return to full fitness for another few weeks.
Since Takehiro Tomiyasu and Mohamed Elneny are still recovering from knee surgery, Rob Holding, who scored his first and only Premier League goal to date at the London Stadium last season, could start once more.
On a more positive note, Eddie Nketiah has re-joined the team after recovering from an ankle injury, and he may be eligible to make his comeback on Sunday. However, his deft turn and finish against West Ham on Boxing Day may not be sufficient to earn him a start here.
Possible starting lineup for West Ham United
Fabianski, Kehrer, Ogbonna, Zouma, Cresswell, Bowen, Rice, Soucek, Benrahma, Antonio and Ings.
Possible starters for Arsenal
Ramsdale, White, Holding, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Xhaka, Partey, Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli, and Jesus.
We predict: West Ham United 1-3 Arsenal
Arsenal’s failure against Liverpool was largely attributed to riling up the Anfield faithful, but they shouldn’t suffer from a similar psychological disadvantage in front of a disgruntled London Stadium crowd.
The league leaders should easily win despite West Ham’s potential to break Arsenal’s flawless defensive record in London derbies played away from home this season. The tired hosts should provide little resistance to Arteta’s merciless attacking surges.