West Ham vs Arsenal
West Ham United welcome London rivals Arsenal to the Boleyn Ground on Sunday as the busy Premier League Christmas schedule brings these teams their second game in the space of two days.
West Ham travelled to Chelsea on Boxing Day, and betrayed a lack of conviction that suggests they don’t really feel they are equipped to mix with the really elite teams in the division. Their 2-0 loss flattered them, as they were totally outplayed by the league leaders and, but for the heroics of Adrian between the sticks, they might have been on the receiving side of a real good hiding. It was a disappointing display for Sam Allardyce to watch, especially after a run that saw the Hammers lose only one of their previous eleven games, including four wins and a draw prior to the trip to Stamford Bridge. Big Sam had Diafa Sakho warming the bench for the first hour, but with the fixtures coming thick and fast, he might have been saving him for a game he felt his team had more chance of winning.
Arsenal were made to work hard for their three points on Boxing Day in another London derby that saw them outplay a brave Queens Park Rangers side, but ultimately only win by the odd goal in three to extend their unbeaten run to four games. Of course, their chances were not improved by the reckless red card of Olivier Giroud eight minutes into the second half, and he unsurprisingly fell victim to Arsene Wenger’s iciest stare as he left the field. That stare was in recognition of the fact that having been blessed by his French striker’s early return from a long-term injury, Wenger must now do without him for a three-game suspension after his red-mist moment. Alexis Sanchez overcame the disappointment of an early penalty miss to head in the first goal before setting up setting up Tomas Rosicky for the second. Rosicky was enjoying his first start of the season, and with Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshire still sidelined, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott still not ready for a full ninety minutes, he will have done his chances of an extended run in the side no harm at all. With Giroud missing, Wenger might be forced into giving Sanchez a more advanced role, although he always has the ever-ready Lukas Podolski at his disposal too.
West Ham disappointed at Stamford Bridge in a game they always appeared to expect to lose, but I anticipate a different team and a different performance in front of their own fans. Andy Carroll will be a bullying handful for Per Mertesacker, and with the probable inclusion of Sakho alongside him it should be a great tie.