West Ham Preview: Injuries and Managerial Disconnects

West Ham pitch up at the Emirates this evening, looking for Arsenal to boost their confidence and going home with three points to help their charge into mid-table obscurity.

Injuries cast a dark shadow over the preparations with Per Mertesacker likely to make his first start of the season. Laurent Koscielny’s Achilles injury keeps him out, joined by David Ospina whose attempts to make himself taller by a quick stretch on the rack, left him with back-knack. Emiliano Martinez is the lucky man who will be clattered repeatedly by Andy Carroll.

Arsenal’s lack of defensive ability will be an issue if Mikhail Antonio is in the West Ham side as well. Exploiting Manchester City’s befuddled defending at corners is one thing, getting ours sorted is proving to be quite another.

Look, it’s a match we need to win and Arsène has a few more options tonight that he did on Sunday, with Aaron Ramsey and Ox both returning. I didn’t say they would be popular options, just that he had more. I’d expect Ox to drop into Francis Coquelin’s midfield slot as there is little scope for greater change. I’m not convinced replacing Xhaka as well, will be anything other than counter-productive at this point.

With three changes likely, a fourth seems a step too far so it leaves the line-up:

Martinez; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Mustafi, Monreal; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xhaka; Walcott, Özil, Alexis; Welbeck

Who knows what performance we’re going to get. Even Sunday was a game of two halves, encapsulating the problem of confidence that Wenger touched on in his press conference yesterday.

Let The Sideshow Begin

It was a baffling performance from the manager in front of the assembled hacks. Beleaguered is a word the world of football loves to use about managers and one which sums up Arsène’s situation. He doesn’t help matters, undermining Ivan’s message to the supporters forum at the weekend.

Wenger said,

“The problem in our game today is that what is superficial is the heart of the debate and the things that are important nobody talks about.

“You never read about the performance of one individual person on the pitch, you read only about all the rest. Maybe the rest sells newspapers but it doesn’t really matter.”

‘Befuddled’ is another word which applies to Arsène’s comments, particularly as it’s only he and the board who refuse to talk about “the things that are important”.

It isn’t the only disconnect between the manager and supporters. Unsurprisingly, he picked up on Pep’s comments at the weekend about the fourth place trophy. He used it to underline his consistent top four finishes,

For 20 years I’ve done it and it’s looked like it’s nothing. Suddenly it becomes important and I’m pleased to realise that people realise that it’s not as easy as it looks.

Guaranteed To Make You Cry

To Arsène, I’m sure Guardiola’s comments are vindication of his reign but they miss the point of unrest entirely. The top four finishes are meaningless if they aren’t a stepping stone to anywhere else. This season is proving the folly of targeting fourth. We’re missing badly and on course for fifth or sixth, reliant on others faltering but without any semblance of form to take advantage.

Well, other than bad form.

You can’t even argue that Wenger is meeting the board’s target by finishing fourth because the Frenchman admitted that they don’t set him targets. It’s a staggering comment, and if true, one which demands all the directors be replaced. How can a football club not set targets for the manager? You can’t judge a manager’s performance if you don’t but this is Arsenal.

A £½bn business doesn’t set its most senior executive any targets. This, a man whose salary is £8m per year, free to perform however he likes.

This is a club where the leadership are in awe through lack of knowledge or owing their jobs to Wenger. They talk of respect for his reign, using it to mask their own cowardice at dealing with the issue of a manager whose reign is failing. In a way, it’s funny that Wenger undermined the message Ivan delivered at the weekend. Arsène doesn’t believe he will change, “that’s too hard.” He will “evolve” instead.

The truth is he’ll do neither. When he renews, it will be two more years of being outwitted tactically and outplayed. Who knows, maybe he’ll break his European duck and win the Europa League although it would be no surprise if we treated that as little more than a European League Cup.

It’s a thoroughly depressing state of affairs. Nothing surprises me anymore, other than Arsenal winning. Let’s hope for that and a little sunshine into these cloudy days.

Finally, a reminder that Dad’s Jukebox has moved the dial to 1998. Click here for the soundtrack of that year.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

147 thoughts on “West Ham Preview: Injuries and Managerial Disconnects

  1. Just seeing the replay for the first goal again. Alexis probably did distract Randall, but I don’t think he was offside.

  2. Ozil and Theo scores and Ozil looks up for in the 2nd half, maybe he really did need a goal to lift his confidence.

  3. Look at the animation and excitement on the benches at the chavs game. Different planet to us.

  4. Liverpool conceded a late equaliser to drop points against Bournemouth. The gap is now 6 points with 2 games in hand.

  5. I haven’t seen anything of the game, only sparse text updates on BBC Sport.

    A quiet first half? A much better second half!

    3 – 0 win, can there be any complaints?

    BBC are saying that some supporters didn’t take their seats until the thirteenth minute, the number of years since we won the league. Was it a significant number of protesters?

  6. Jonnygunner,

    So Merlyn hates West Ham, try him on sausages.

    A good thing you didn’t use the English spelling, Merlin is an anagram of Milner a player I truly dislike.

  7. Phew, at last… A match in which it was made easy for us and we were allowed to play. More sir, please can I have some more..

  8. Orson Kaert,

    It’s Welsh for ‘hill beyond the sea’
    My South Wales(particularly Swansea/Port Talbot) roots remain strong.
    However-ALWAYS a Gooner-till I die.

  9. Not for nothing but I thought Xhaka and Elneny not only complimented each other perfectly but were superb and gave us what we have been missing ay the pivots. The real shame is that Arsene will probably drop Elneny for Ox or Ramsey in the next match.

  10. Amazing how, when it gets to the crunch time of the season Wenger actually works out his best squad. Welbeck up front is vital because his mobility really gets the team on the front foot. Suddenly the team were pressing again as if they cared. It also doesn’t matter much if Sanchez isn’t playing CF because Welbeck shifts around so much Sanchez has lots of space to roam around in (as distinct from when Giroud is on the pitch.

  11. C,

    Betchya Giroud is back because he scored a soft goal at the fag end of the game. If Wenger does that, he’s insane, but …

  12. C,

    Neither Xhaka or Elneny are strong dribblers (like Cazorla) but they always show for each other and that makes all the difference.

  13. Everything on the pitch is inter-related. Arsenal wanted to play a high line to, among other things, negate the threat of crosses to Andy Carroll from the wings. That meant Arsene had to play Welbeck because, if Giroud played, West Ham defenders would have had more time to look up and play balls through the lines and over the top to Carroll. So I think there is a decent argument that Carroll was less of a threat (and Arsenal’s defenders had better games) because Welbeck played.

  14. Freddo

    I thought the job of a CF was to score. I thought a CF is supposed to score and Welbeck has not looked like he is even a threat. The idea that the CF is somehow the key to holding Carroll in check is a gigantic stretch of the imagination. You seem to forget that he was CF against West Brom and Man City and it did not help us.

  15. I am certainly glad we won and I honestly expect us to finish the year on a strong run and make a real push to get back into the top 4 but anyone who has watched this team for the last 12 years knows that our good runs happen any time we are in danger of losing 4th place irregardless of which players we run out on the pitch. We play one decent 1/2 of football at home against the team in perhaps the worst form of any team in the league and suddenly we have found the key combination of players that we have been missing all along. Yeah right

  16. Bill,

    Of course a CF should score. But these days he has to bring a lot of other things to the table, including pressing. Interesting that Ozil pulled his finger out and did some pressing today. Was that because he’s got a contract renewal coming up or because he realised that, with Welbeck beside him, he wasn’t wasting his time? Dunno.

  17. But one thing is certain. A team cannot play a high line without vigorous pressing – otherwise opponents have too much time to pick a pass over the top.

  18. Freddo

    We all want to be optimistic and believe that there is some tactical tweak or a certain player combinations that will make everything work. However if you have been watching the same team that I have for the last 12 years you know that the key to our form is not tactical but its in our head. We always put together a good run whenever 4th is at risk and that happens irregardless of which players Arsene runs on the pitch. It remains to be seen if today was the start of our run for the top 4 or just a dead cat bounce against a really poor team. I favor the former since the same thing has happened every year whenever we need to win to climb back into 4th.

    Trying to make the case that Welbeck was a major key to stopping West Ham today when he was playing with mostly the same players in the previous 2 games and we were miserable just does not make sense.

  19. Freddo

    I don’t like Giroud either. I have been campaigning for selling him and getting a better CF for the last 4 years. However, he is not the root of all evil and trying to theorize that a different CF is a key to the defense is a heavy dose of over thinking.

  20. Bill, actually, I’m a Wenger Outist. I don’t think Giroud is the root of all evil, but I do think that having a CF who is largely a passenger unless he scores is pretty damn unhelpful. Nothing has driven me more nuts than the way we started pressing at the beginning of the season (with Sanchez at CF) and then got very passive in the middle of the season (when Giroud came back) and now seem to be pressing again. It’s hard, of course, to quantify the vigour of pressing, but it does seem to me that our defensive woes also climbed when the pressing faded.
    Apart from his pressing, Welbeck drags defenders all over the pitch, which gives Alexis and Ozil (in particular) more space.
    One thing I do suspect is that Giroud won’t be starting much from now on. The situation has got too dire for Arsene to be sentimental. But I could be wrong!

  21. Top 2nd half yesterday, pleased for Elneny had a good game and made the midfield look more like a midfield should look like, a link between defense and attack.

    Well done boys, I just hope this doesn’t gloss over the past couple of months of football.

  22. Morning all
    Credit where its due, a good win.
    I have always liked Elmeny and with Xhaka they look a good pairing. Whether the get the opportunity to continue together is another thing. I wasn’t that worried with Martinez in goal he looks quietly confident and his distribution is decent.
    I echo the more please.

  23. Shall I put a comment on this thread just in case Yogi turns up with a new post just as soon as i have made my comment?

  24. A solid win against an ailing opponent which I’ll gladly take if it keeps Man United behind us.

    We looked better, much less stressed and not simply because West Ham offered little. We looked committed to the cause – it simply came down to ‘quality will out’, and once again even though we like to disguise it, we do have quality.

    One thing for sure, Elneny needs to feature more. This was a good match to re-establish some confidence in midfield and Xhaka and Elneny complement each other. If Wenger drops him again he is simply a dick.

    Agree about Martinez – he looked assured.

  25. DFS-,

    You know Elneny is going to get dropped, Arsene would never put him ahead of Ox, Ramsey and Le Coq. Ox and Ramsey were just coming back from injury but I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see Elneny dropped back to the bench which is a real fucking shame.

  26. Oh come on people, really.. A wet flannel could have turned up and roughed went ham up last night. This just cements our reputation as Fodder bashers. I can’t indulge in it anymore. You lot go ahead.

  27. The thing is though silver, we know exactly which games we will win, lose and draw. Because it all depends on the level of the opponents.

  28. Lets not get carried away as I have said previously we have a difficult run in, we can expect 6 points from the next 2 games, but from the FA Cup tie against Man City we have a tough 2 weeks that imo will determine whether we make the so called “top 4 trophy”.

    10 Apr – Premier League, Crystal Palace vs Arsenal
    17 Apr – Premier League, Middlesbrough vs Arsenal
    23 Apr – FA Cup Semi-final, Arsenal vs Man. City
    26 Apr – Premier League, Arsenal vs Leicester City
    30 Apr – Premier League, Tottenham vs Arsenal
    7 May – Premier League, Arsenal vs Man United
    13 May – Premier League, Stoke City vs Arsenal
    21 May – Premier League, Arsenal vs Everton
    Postponed – Premier League, Southampton vs Arsenal
    Postponed – Premier League, Arsenal vs Sunderland

  29. Dukey,

    That’s a pretty good word to describe it. Nice to get a win but the backstory isn’t going away and taints everything. People getting excited (not necessarily people on here btw) about getting fourth place which means entry again into a competition that we don’t even try seriously to win. And more money for the parasite known as Stanley.

  30. A little light relief as we are treated to another insight from a former Arsenal ‘Great’ (in his own mind):

    Nicklas Bendtner is still being Nicklas Bendtner.

    The former Arsenal striker, who left Nottingham Forest seven months into a two-year deal in March, has scored two in two for new club Rosenborg.

    Cue this post-match interview last night:

    Reporter: Is it cool to be Nicklas Bendtner in Norway?

    Bendtner: It’s great to be Nicklas Bendtner everywhere.

    We salute your indefatigability.

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