West Ham United: Sixth
West Ham United: 13-12-6
Last five match results
West Ham United: DDWWW
A DEPLETED Arsenal will be seeking redemption as it continues its fast fading pursuit of the English Premier League title and tries to make up for its season-opening loss to West Ham at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday night.
West Ham United ($3.65 with CrownBet.com.au) spoiled the Gunners’ ($1.97) (Draw is $3.50) Premier League season opener at Emirates Stadium last year with a 2-0 results.
Cheikou Kouyate nodded home Dimitri Payet’s free kick for the first and then Mauro Karate fired home from 20 yards to secure the win, despite conceding 62 per cent of possession to the Gunners.
Fast forward eight months and the Gunners need every thing to go right to secure the Premier League title, while their opponents are still a mathematical chance of finishing in the top four.
It makes for a juicy match up, with both sides having plenty to play for.
Arsenal clobbered Watford 4-0 on the weekend to make it two wins in a row, after a 2-2 draw with arch rival Tottenham.
The form is strong, after Alexis Sanchez, Alex Iwobi, Hector Bellerin and Theo Walcott headlined four individual goal scorers in the shellacking.
Iwobi, in his second consecutive start for the Gunners, showed his prodigious talent, setting up Sanchez in just the fourth minute and then helping himself to a goal.
Sitting 11 points behind Leicester City in the title race, the Gunners need to win every game from here to be any hope of taking the title.
Master manager Arsene Wenger has tempered expectations on his side over the season’s last seven games.
“We have to be realistic and just prepare for the next game and not dream too much,” Wenger said following the win over Watford.
“When I say be realistic we have to look behind, over our shoulders, as well.
“Manchester City, Manchester United, West Ham are chasing.
“Let’s look over our shoulders and also chase if we can.”
The Hammers are unbeaten in their past six matches, but a three game winning streak has been broken by a pair of 2-2 draws against Chelsea and Crystal Palace that have been a little lacklustre.
They led twice against Chelsea, through Manuel Lanzini and Andy Carroll, but ended up with a share of the points after an 89th minute penalty.
And they again surrendered a 2-1 lead against Crystal Palace, after fighting back from 1-0 down, with another goal to Lanzini and the superb Payet.
Manager Slaven Bilic will have one eye on a Champions League berth, with the side three points outside the four behind Manchester City.
But he says his side needs to tighten up if they are to get anywhere near Europe.
“It’s no good if you always need to score three goals to win,” Bilic said.
“I’m not talking that you can win the championship or whatever with winning 1-0, 1-0, 1-0 because it is not only about your defence, it is also about the opponent.
“But you can’t always score three goals.”
The Gunners could be buoyed by the return of dogged midfielder Jack Wilshere, who is back in full training after eight months on the sidelines, while Petr Cech should be back between the sticks.
On the Hammers side, they will have nearly a full deck of cards to choose from, with only Sam Byram and James Collins on the injury list.
West Ham United: ADRIÁN, Michail ANTONIO, Winston REID, Angelo OGBONNA, Aaron CRESSWELL, Alex SONG, Mark NOBLE, Emmanuel EMENIKE, Dimitri PAYET, Manual LANZINI, Diafra SAKHO
Arsenal: Petr CECH, hector BELLERÍN, Laurent KOSCIELNY, GABRIEL, Nacho MONREAL, Francis COQUELIN, Mohamed ELNENY, Alexis SÁNCHEZ, Mesut OZIL, Alex IWOBI, Danny WELBECK
Match result: Draw ($3.50 with CrownBet.com.au)
Correct score: Draw 2-2 ($13 with CrownBet.com.au)
Total match goals: Over 2.5 ($1.85 with CrownBet.com.au)
Times have changed a little for both sides since that season-opening match. Both sides are in good form, with Arsenal enjoying perhaps a stronger recent run than its opponent. While Coquelin and Elneny have become the rocks, this side is still led by Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. A host of West Ham stars are set to depart the Boleyn Ground in the off season and that could spell trouble for the run home. But they will still be well served by Payet, the in form Lanzini and brute striker Diafra Sakho. This is shaping up as a marquee match up with two sides who have matched it with the best in 2016. We think a stalemate would be a fitting result, but not ideal for either team. The fixture has traditionally produced goals, so we’ve gone with the over 2.5 tip.
First goal scorer predictions
West Ham United:
Dimitri Payet ($8 with sportsbet.com.au)
I’m not sure if I’m capable of finding more superlatives that I’ve used in my previous ramblings about the French star. I’m admitting it now, this is a massive homer pick, but, fortunately, his form completely backs me up. It’s hard not to love every thing about this bloke. He’s tough, skilled and is as good at finishing as any midfielder in the game at the moment. Injury wrecked his season, but this bloke would have been talked about in the same breath as Mahrez, Vardy and Ozil in the PFA Player of the Year discussions if he’d been on the park more. The 29 year old has nine goals and eight assists in his 23 appearances this season, and has four in his last six, including a brilliant finish against Crystal Palace on the weekend. If he gets a free kick within a kilometre of the goals, watch him produce something special, as he has from set plays all season.
Mark Noble ($17 with sportsbet.com.au)
Veteran Noble has certainly not been as prolific in 2016 as he has been in previous seasons, with just three goals in 30 appearances for the Hammers. Noble, who joined West Ham as a 13-year-old and has been an absolute rock for the Hammers for a number of years, has curiously never made an appearance for England on the international stage. It is hard to believe he is younger than Payet as it feels like has been running around the Boleyn Ground since the dawn of time. Regardless of his recent form, he is $17 for the first goal and that means he is worth a tiny drink at super odds. Let’s hope he can get a decent run through the midfield and cause some damage on his home deck against the Gunners.
Danny Welbeck ($6.50 with sportsbet.com.au)
Welbeck’s inspiring return, where he plugged the match winning goal against Leicester City, was perhaps Arsenal’s moment of the season, but the English striker’s recent performances in place of Olivier Giroud have been superb. Wenger reckoned his long injury layoff has helped make him a better player and it is hard to disagree. He has five goals since his February return and has provided a real spark up front for Arsenal. Should make another start and will get ample opportunity to capitalise, with the likes of Ozil and Bellerin feeding him pin point pills to feast upon.
Mohamed Elneny ($23 with sportsbet.com.au)
Hasn’t the Egyptian international been a great signing for the Gunners? His combination with Francis Coquelin has been a revelation for the Gunners, who have been cruelled by injuries to a number of first team staples. The Gunners player of the much is more defensive rock than attacking dynamo, but he has shown flashes and could be a sneaky good pick at the $23 quote with sportsbet.com.au
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