Arsenal vs West Ham Preview

Arsenal host West Ham at the Emirates today, with the game set to get underway at 1:30pm. Arsenal are sixth in the table, while West Ham are 14th.

Today was all set to be a game that not too many Arsenal fans were hugely bothered about, and it would have likely been played in front of a half-empty Emirates Stadium. With their league campaign being basically over as they try to win the Europa League, coupled with last week’s defeat to Newcastle, many fans would have stayed away, and the atmosphere in the ground wouldn’t have been very positive from the Arsenal fans that did turn up. But that was until Arsene Wenger announced that he would step down when the season is finished.

That will more than likely mean that the attendance will be higher, and it should really help the atmosphere inside the stadium. Regardless of what people thought of Wenger, they can now put that behind them and really support their team. Arsene Wenger will walk into the Emirates Stadium and head to the dugout as manager just three more times before he calls it a day. Even the most vocal of ‘Wenger Out’ fans can get behind him now and give him the send-off he deserves. The atmosphere should be really good inside the Emirates now as all their fans come together.

Today’s game isn’t anywhere near as important as Thursday’s Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, but today could be an important part of that game. They won’t want to be going into that huge game after losing today, and a win will give them some momentum for it. It’ll be interesting to see what sort of team Wenger picks, but he will definitely rotate a bit.

Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey haven’t been risked for the Premier League games, so I would be surprised if they were involved. I think Hector Bellerin will be rested too, so we’ll probably see Calum Chambers at right-back, but maybe Ainsley Maitland-Niles will play there. I think he could leave the likes of Mesut Ozil, Granit Xhaka and Alexandre Lacazette out too. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can’t play in Europe anyway, so he’ll start up front. We could see some of the younger players too, as Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock could come into the team.

Regardless of the team selection, Arsenal should win this game. They are a much better side than West Ham, and have been quite good at home this season. The players shouldn’t need any motivation at all, as they try to send Wenger out on a high.

Arsene Wenger said: “After careful consideration and following discussions with the club, I feel it is the right time for me to step down at the end of the season.

“I am grateful for having had the privilege to serve the club for so many memorable years.

“I managed the club with full commitment and integrity.

“I want to thank the staff, the players, the Directors and the fans who make this club so special.

“I urge our fans to stand behind the team to finish on a high.

“To all the Arsenal lovers take care of the values of the club.

“My love and support forever.”

Henrikh Mkhitaryan will miss out, but he could be available for Thursday. Jack Wilshere has a small ankle problem and is a doubt. Aaron Ramsey is available.

I think it will be interesting to see how West Ham treat this game. I think they’ll be looking to keep it tight at the back, while trying to counter-attack when the Gunners commit forward. They’re on a decent run of form at the moment, so will come into this game with a bit of confidence. They haven’t lost in their last three games, beating Southampton, while drawing with Chelsea and Stoke, and have moved themselves away from the relegation zone in the process.

They’re 14th in the table, and are six points clear of Southampton, who are 18th. They’ll more than likely be safe, and today is sort of a free-hit as it’s their game in hand. Their run-in is quite difficult, but I think they have more than enough to pick up a point or two from their remaining games. They play Arsenal, Man City, Leicester, Man Utd and Everton, with Leicester being their only away game after today. If it really came to it, I think they could beat Everton on the final day of the season to stay up. But I’m not sure Southampton will make up the six point gap that already exists anyway.

I reckon they’ll be safe anyway, but it will still be interesting to see how they do between now and the end of the season. They’ll be looking to rock up to the Emirates today and spoil the ‘party’ as such. It’s not quite a party, or a celebration, but I can’t think of the word to describe it. Whatever it is going on at the Emirates, West Ham want to stick a metaphorical pin in Arsenal’s balloon. But there isn’t really a pin or a balloon at the Emirates. West Ham want to win today and make Arsenal sad, basically.

David Moyes told West Ham’s official website: “We have good belief as a team. I think we feel as though we played well in the game against Stoke but we just didn’t score the goals. Good performances do lead to good results and I do hope we can continue. We are on a decent run at the moment.

“I’m trying to get a level of consistency to our play and to not be so up and down all the time. So really that’s the message I’m trying to get out and what we hope to do. The first part would be to try and go unbeaten for the rest of the season, which isn’t an easy task but it is a target that we have to set for ourselves.”

James Collins will miss out for the Irons, but Manuel Lanzini and Andy Carroll both came through Monday night’s game against Stoke and are available. Pedro Obiang was initially ruled out for the season, but David Moyes says he may still play a part. I don’t think we’ll see him today, but maybe in the coming weeks.

I think this one will be interesting one. The atmosphere inside the Emirates should be good, and Arsenal’s players should react to Arsene Wenger’s news and put a real performance in for him. But West Ham will be trying to spoil Arsenal’s day, and there’s a real chance they’ll do that. Marco Arnautovic has been really impressive of late, and he’s a definite cause of concern for Arsenal. I think Arsenal will win this one, but they could have to really fight for it.

The team news will be out at 12:30pm, and you’ll get that up here as well. I’ll be watching the game and you can follow it with me on Twitter. Enjoy the game.

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