Arsenal v West Ham: Eight rickety steps to go

At the moment watching Arsenal’s title charge is like watching someone crossing a rickety old rope bridge positioned over a massive pool of lava. There’s eight battered and beaten steps to go and if one of them breaks, we’re done for.

The first of those eight steps is tomorrow’s home clash with West Ham and as the analogy above suggests, it’s a game we really must win if we are to continue holding hopes of finishing the season on top.

Our team news going into the game is superb: Cesc Fabregas and Tomas Rosicky are both back after returning from injury and Alex Song is available after serving his two-game ban. Both Cesc and Song’s return will be a huge boost to a midfield that struggled to have its usual impact at Hull. Unfortunately, William Gallas is ruled out with his niggling calf problem (or as a result of his contract issues if you want to go down that path…).

With a week’s break since our last game there should be no need for rotation and I full expect Arsene Wenger to play our best team available.

I expect Manuel Almunia to start in goals behind a back four of Emmanuel Eboue, Sol Campbell, Thomas Vermaelen and Gael Clichy. I think Eboue’s attacking impetus will see him get the nod over Bacary Sagna as has been the case for recent home games.

In midfield Cesc and Song should be joined by Abou Diaby with Samir Nasri and Denilson given a rest. Up front I can see Andrey Arshavin and Theo Walcott flanking Nicklas Bendtner.

I’ve already spoken about the banana-skinny nature of our two rivals games this weekend and with our boys playing a day before both Chelsea and Manchester we have an opportunity to put some serious pressure on them by winning. Indeed, a win would see us go top of the table and it’s not unfeasible that we could remain there at the end of the weekend.

West Ham grabbed a draw against us at Upton Park after scoring two late goals and it is important that if we get into any sort of lead we protect it far more efficiently than we did in the reverse fixture. The Hull game had all the signs of being a cakewalk when Arshavin netted our opener and although the penalty award was completely unfair the fact is that we allowed them to get back in the game.

Regardless of whether we play well or not, three points must be taken tomorrow. Let’s hope the boys can get them.


Have your say on Arsenal v West Ham by leaving a comment.



  1. No way is Gallas being left out because of his contract issues. I know that’s not what you’re suggesting Andy but anyone else of that mind trust me, not even Arsene would cut off his nose to spite his face that much. Campbell has been great but Gallas remains an outstanding defender. If fit he would be playing.

    Other than that I’m pretty annoyed Arsenal are copping all these late kick offs. In NSW, daylight savings puts kick off at 4:45am. We suffer for our love, but it will be worth it if the Arsenal pick up a title. Get in there you gunners!

  2. I think that team is pretty much spot on, but I think he might leave Diaby out and put Nasri in. Whenever Diaby returns from injury we always rush him straight back in. Then again we haven’t played for a week so everyone should be fresh.

    Hoping for a Bordeaux draw today!!

  3. I think not that watching Arsenal’s title charge can be compared to someone crossing……. I rather beleive that the team has shown strengths in character, belief and determination in the last two gales which we very tough. If the team continues that way we are likely to be crowned champions. I fully agree with your team. I think Walcott is due the chance to start and march-on in terms of a massive performance. We really need that from him especially NOW.The way Eboue has developed over the last few years ( especially this last year) is impressive and he deserves strating games simply on form. I am worried about games with physical sides but not when we play a team that tries to play football – hopefully that will be the case with West Ham. Today is also the big day with the draw for the CL – fingers crossed to getting the second game at home (the team we will be playing is of no significane in my opinion since we do have to beat the best to be champions of Europe)

  4. I wasn’t going to say this a week ago, but Liverpool with new found confident they may just get something against you know who at the weekend.what you gooners think agree .

    ps I didn’t watch the game between Fulham & Juventus did Melo play & how was he.anyone

  5. @sid

    He played. They called him “Melo Smello.” (Boom Tish)

    We might’ve dodged a bullet if we wanted to sign him

  6. I believe this an orppotunity for us to show that we are tittle contenders and anything less than that.
    Nasri sh’d be the guy in and Diaby sh’d start from the bench. Nasri has been great this recent days. Eboue of course is our best #2. Can’t wait watching them perform.

  7. barca with the 1st leg at the emirates then inter or cska in the semi,s…..WOW thats a toughie but if you want to win the champs league you have to beat the best along the way……..

  8. forget westham thats a small anthill to climb.
    the heavens did not answer my prayers.
    hope THE ALMIGHTY GOD will see us thru this time. with HIM NOTHING is impossible. yes NOTHING

  9. @ Sid
    Melo started, played the full match but only displayed the form that has followed him all season, ‘disappointing’.

    Its a shame, as he has so much talent.

  10. I do believe the boss will pick the strongest side he can for sure, regardless of the hammers recent form whenever they visit. You have to remember we suffered our first defeat at the Emirates to them. And no smart comments from ICE!!! They do like to pass & play football too, especially against us, so i do look forward to our matches. Even if i do get a little annoyed if the 3 points vanish like the last! Just cant wait to see the fabulous puppet master pull the strings from midfield again.
    @ White Ox – Should be on same time as last week, wouldnt it, 4.30 kick off?
    I work with a UTD supporter who has said for the past 2 months that utd will get the Carling, Chelsea the FA, us the EPL & Barca the CL. Worse thing is im starting to agree with him.

    forget west ham thats asmall anthill to climb.
    the heavens did not answer my prayers.
    hope the ALMIGHTY GOD will see us thru this time.
    with HIM NOTHING is impossible.
    yes NOTHING.
    Iin HIS NAME we will give the body of this goliath to birds for food

  12. YESSS! Exactly what I wanted…it’s a best possible draw for us, it’s a win – win situation:

    – We go out – there is no shame in being beaten by best team in world and we get clear run in domestic league

    – we go through – who is there to stop us? Double is ours!


    This is not time for cowardice and negativity

  13. If we could come through winning barcelona then everyone will fear us as serious title contenders.If we win Barcelona then we have another tough task of Inter Milan

  14. They wouldn’t have wanted to draw Arsenal either!
    Yes they will be favourites but we have been favourites many a time and lost, it’s all about what happens in the 180 minutes first leg is vital and not to concede too many away goals (none preferably) and take our chances when they present themselves!

  15. I think Barcelona will suit Arsenal. We’ll be the underdogs and that usually suits us; it will be a proper football match (no arseholes like Shawcross in their team) and they will be just as worried about Fabregas, Arshavin, Rosicky, Nasri.

    The biggest downside for me though is that I can’t add van Persie to that list cos that would make it as good as anything in the world.

    Have faith people – we can beat Barcelona if the four players mentioned above stay fit and they play as well as we know they can.

  16. I see a lot of Man Utd fans celebrating and a lot of Arsenal fans unhappy. All i will say is that it really is a dream draw for Arsenal and European football because Arsenal and Barcelona are the two most attack committed teams in Europe. Obviously, Barcelona shade it in terms of quality (Messi is on another planet right now) but a fully fit Arshavin, Nasri and Fabregas will cause the Barcelona defense all sorts of trouble. Our style of football might not work against some harder teams with rough midfielders in the premier league but it is tailor made for the Champions league. I don’t know how the Bayern/Man Utd game will play out because Bayern have one of the most experienced coaches in European football and their squad contains genuine quality (Robben,Ribery,Lahm,Van Bommel, Schweinsteiger). They are also a very physical team and are full of flight. Yes, they kind of fluffed their lines against Fiorentina but it must be said that there was a massive element of surprise in that game and Man Utd will be crazy to underestimate them. Man Utd might shade it because of their pure pace BUT Bayern is a really tough team. The other ties look kind of dull though (all French quarter-final..yech!) Plus Why does everyone suddenly think Barca will beat Arsenal and United will beat Bayern? Anyone who watches Barca will know that when you give them no respect and attack them they are soft in the centre. Fine Arsenal will have to be wary of Barca attack, however i know for sure Barca also struggles against teams that keep the ball like them. They are not used to teams keeping the ball against them and i think if Arsenal play without fear they can beat Barca. Barca are a great side, but like all teams they are beatable and Wenger just have to figure out how to do it. If i were an Arsenal fan, i’ll rather play Barca than an English team, at least you know what to expect, they’ll let you play unlike United, Chelsea or Liverpool, Barca dont have a Fletcher, Essien or a Masch who will disrupt your rhythm, both teams will play and may the best side win.

  17. @jsnx Exactly right, same kickoff time as other weeks. The late kickoff is just ordinary for gooners in this part of the world, I’m sure you know.

    I have no problems with the scenario you just suggested, if we won the league that would be fine with me. The title or the CL would look great in Arsenal’s trophy cabinet.

  18. Guys now that the draw has been done, our prayers have been answered. The last nail in Barca’s challenge has come.Its the tie i have been praying for and to indeed test ourselves and seek revenge against the best.
    I just have a feeling with guys like Arshavin ,Rosicky ,Fab and Song and players like Walcot to counter the impact of Messie Arsenal are going to pull out a shocker in Europe this time. Nice pairing.

  19. If you are to match arsenal with Barca in all departments Barca slightly edges gunners but if you are to talk about the midfield arsenal is very strong.My only worry is Gallas delaying to come back cause i really see Messie causing all sorts of chaos to Sol.But that alone , a stubborn player like arshv, wont give Barca a breath.With the pace of Walcott, Puyol may be red carded trying to stop him.I just cant wait to see this game over both legs

  20. Regarding gallas – I am a doctor and that does not sound like a typical strain.

    Here’s to a great weekend for all goonerdome.

  21. It’s time for Arsenal to prove that even unfamous team could beat a High flying Barcelona. I hope our defensive doesn’t have any injuries….

  22. Look, on the bright side, we have avoided Man U. The past few seasons in te UCL have taught us that Arsenal struggle against English opposition. Rmb 03/04(Chelsea), 07/08(Liverpool), 08/09(Man U). Also, in the 2006 final, even when we were down to 10, we still created some opportunities. I fancy facing them in a 2-legged affair rather than a final.
    This Barca side can be beaten this season, Rubin Kazan went to the Camp Nou an beat them. It is alo worth noticing that Barca strugged in their group stage. There was even a point in time when we the formality that Barca ad automatic qualification. But, recently Barca have been rampant and is down to one word: ridiculous. That is what describes Messi as quoted by Henry.
    Many a time, Arsenal have been written off as also-rans, in the league they said we were a soft touch and easily bullied, in the UCL they said we were too inexperieced (we are 4th favourites btw behind inter). Maybe, just maybe we flourish when given the label of dark horses.
    Arsenal can achieve this season, but it is the small things that make a significant impact.

  23. without any reason to drop points, The mighty GUNNERS should win tomorrows game agaiinst Westham withou fail, Roski and Asharvin should start together with the likes of Walcott, Nasri and key man himself ‘Fab’ Big up to one Wenger, for the idea of bringing Eriksen at Emirates, best of luck to my life time team The MIGHTY ARSENAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. “one function of the executive is to make sensible exceptions to general rules” Gallas wants two years. Policy says Arse only gives one. Executive Wenger should give the two years unless he thinks we can get another Vermaelen. always loved Sol, but he’s not the same, and do we want Senderos(or similar) in center back? you have to beat the best to be the best. I love the draw; there will be no cloggers, that’s for sure!

  25. bring on barca….we are the best equipped team to beat them……utd fans are already talking about the final…wel they are in for a shock cos if bayern dont get them lyon will

  26. Not running from the Barca draw. That’s a good thing! In order for Arsenal to win the Champions League they MUST fight against teams that give them a challenge. As for West Ham this weekend – WIN. Put the best team on the pitch and dominate. Go Gunners!

  27. Guys! if we get trough this atage of the CL, I think we’ll be champions, Barcelona is the team to beat in the competition, so, let’s hope Arsenal do their best to beat them, It will be massive!!

    Against westham… a victory is needed, indeed.

  28. A great draw – this is what European football is all about. It’s what being Arsenal is all about. We will be playing the current best team in in world.

    Meanwhile…let’s concentrate on The Hammers. And I hope the players won’t have Barcelona on their minds when they take to the field on saturday as they’ll need to be fully focussed on the job in hand. The Irons are fighting to avoid the drop. it will not be easy.

    I just want to give a mention to our supporters at the games who have been fantastic this season and especially the away support – doing us proud. Keep it up, lads. Let’s here ‘One Aaron Ramsey!’ on Saturday.

  29. Where is my double shot of patron. Go you Gooners. Liverpool vs Manure should be epic. Unless livers choke again.

    Dude!!!! Barcelona!!!
    Can we do it!? yes we can!
    Look i think its gonna come into who is the better coach. AW should win it. Look men for men barca are liteyears ahead of us. The only advantage we have is AW, i believe he going to come through for us.

  30. @ Simon
    The formula for any silverware is having every team member play their best.

    Yes we can talk about the creative talent of Cesc, Arshavin, Nasri, and Rosicky – but big competitions should bring out the best in those with low profiles and do the grunt work:

    Bendtner – Diaby – Song – Eboue – Clichy – Sagna – Denilson – Theo – Silvestre – Almunia.

    First and foremost is to dispatch West Ham.

  31. I somehow agree with Arsesession. Letting the low profiles against Barca will let them have experience with world class team and will also let the Star players rest and be ready for games at the BPL….. Besides, our objectif is to win the BPL right???

  32. It doesn’t really matter who plays in the starting lineup. What does matter is that we get all the 3 points we deserve. The last time we played WHU, we were cruising with 2 goals lead but we shot ourselves at our foot after half time by trying to contain the lead. and we all well know what that result turn out to be.
    Whoever starts in the line up needs to make sure that we get the early lead.
    Let’s hope we hammer the Hammers this time round and get all the three points that will that us closer to the title.

  33. Another gem from The Great Man – ‘Do not speak too much, shut up and win.’ This was in relation to the Hammers game. How can you not love this guy? This is one of the reasons why I’d swap AW for no other manager in the world. US President Teddy Roosevelt’s famous dictum was ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick.’ and I put this in the same ball park. Let’s give the ‘ammers some stick.

  34. The game between Arsenal and Westham today will give the hope for the Gunners for the title race against Manchester United and Chelsea when win over Westham by scoring more goals in order to scare the Spanish giant Barca that Arsenal is not the easy team in English league when it comes to champions league.

  35. Can someone tell me why it is that Eboue has been starting in front of Sagna? I’ve notice this a few times and people just say Wengers resting Sagna or hes a bit injured, but is it because Eboue is a better player than Sagna? and what is the deal about him and home games you mentioned.

  36. my good, they keep it exciting, more than I love it, I can’t understand the red card for Vermaelen, he falls onto the opponent , but is that red? , can’t understand it, great thank to Almunia, he saved bravely, just for justice, but now they are ten men, and Denis goal was such a good beginning, now there is some tension in it, maybe, it’s even good for the Arsenal, they have to focus and score another one, cause, there are always mistakes at the back, and it would be terrible if they couldn’t drive that match home, terrible, ………….. 😎 😯

  37. its not good at all cause now we will have silvsetre and campbell start for a few games. gallas is hurt.

  38. bitter, right now, how many games is he punished? I couldn’t watch this penalty, couldn’t 😯 three points, three exciting three points, who cares ………….. 😉 enjoy it right now, tomorrow is tomorrow ………

  39. Away at Birmingham City with a defensive CB pair from the 90s!! We are SCREWED!
    Djourou mentioned last month that in a month he would be back in training. Maybe Arsene should rush him to save our title charge.

  40. denilson and almunia…..two weakest links in our squad gave great contributions today! hats off to them both as theyv both,justifiably,come in for stick this season….but both of their recent form has been excellent to be fair.
    nasris form is on the up….come to think of it every1 seems to know their job and are putting in the work we need to win,its great stuff.
    special praise for eboue and diaby….eboue was immense today and is absolutely flying,he gives his all, ya gotta love the guy.diaby came on and kept us from going on the retreat,impressive the way so many are willing to pick up the slack…..nobody is waiting for another to inspire or kickstart us…we are a proper team now,responding against stoke,hull and now again today in the face of adversity..pity about verm but he needed a rest anyway in my opinion and gallas will return soon.
    great time to be an arsenal fan… lose or draw from here on in they delivered a great season and we can be proud!!!!

  41. AW should contest TV’s red card. It was really harsh!
    I don’t think he’ll be out for more than 1 game (i hope the FA will be fair this time round).
    For the B’ham game AW has to play Song in center half with Sol.
    Exciting times!!

  42. Well done shambogunner for giving due praise. For me, I thought Alex Song was immense. Immense. And then he went and did Vermaelean’s job, also brilliantly. Le Boss has done it again. Song is going to be worth zillions in a season or two. And he’s all Arsenal!!!

  43. Was thinking whats arsenals best starting 11. when everyone is fit. Considering the heroic antics of denilson at the moment, defensively he was excellent and attacking wise. He has a good shot aswell. Diaby is a incredible player gifted with great ball skills and strength.

    My First XI
    Clichy Verm Gallas Sagna
    Nasri Song Diaby Arshavin
    Cesc RVP


    Fringe Players

    New Players

    Wow what a team, the constant challenge is how we can keep them all fit.

  44. @nonny,
    yep dead right about song mate,i just left out him and cesc as it goes without saying at this stage how influential and consistant they both are, notice for the second goal it was a cesc tackle that set us going forward before his one-two with eboue…..hats off to wenger, and i agree with you from reading and watching interviews with song that he is committed and shares the same affinity with the club as the vieiras,henrys and now cescs….we have got an extremely loyal close knit group here now and the belief seems to be there…..i wouldnt like to be picking the team!!!
    sagna or eboue?
    competition for places breeds success……

  45. right i know its cheeky but ive stolen this from the guardian…as i think it sums the fans reaction perfectly…

    and i agree with the match ratings….

    So from the beach with love,….heres what finished with………..

    LOUISE COWBURN, Observer reader I’m absolutely delighted. It felt so good when we were singing “We are top of the league” – even if it is only for half a day. It’s been absolutely ages since we had that kind of atmosphere in the stadium and it showed how resilient we are as a team to play for half a game when we were down to 10 men. That totally dispelled the idea that we are all style above substance. We really ground it out. I didn’t see if Vermaelen should have been sent off but from the crowd reaction it seemed harsh. But he walked off like a true gent with no complaining. After he went, Song was absolutely brilliant when he dropped back.

    The fan’s player ratings Almunia 8; Eboué 8, Campbell 8, Vermaelen 7, Clichy 7; Fábregas 8, Song 10, Denílson 8, Nasri 7 (Sagna 74 6); Bendtner 7 (Diaby 58 6), Arshavin 6 (Eduardo 84 6)

    TIM & TOM CONLAN, Observer readers Two words: utter disgrace. I didn’t like the selection – why Cole was on the bench was beyond me. It shows the negative attitude of the entire club at the moment. There is no ambition: when you’re in a relegation fight you have to throw caution to the wind. Arsenal weren’t that good, especially after they were down to 10 men. Our midfield battled but there were no proper balls, no quality round the box. Forget the penalty – even if we had scored I still think Arsenal would have come back to win 3-1. It wasn’t even a penalty to begin with. They were down to 10 men and they were still the better side.

    The fan’s player ratings Green 7; Spector 5, Tomkins 7, Upson 6, Daprela 6; Diamanti 3, Kovac 4 (Noble 70 n/a), Behrami 5, Stanislas 7; Mido 3 (McCarthy 75 n/a), Franco 3 (Cole 57 5)

  46. I think Walcott should have played in the game. Diaby got in the game and helped the team comfortable with the ball. I’m sure if Walcott went in, it would be a massive win for the gunners and also the ball.

  47. i dont understand how vermaelan was even called for a foul. i didnt see any contact that should have stopped the play

  48. There was no foul. The player dived and conned the ref. Actually as I understand it the ref only awarded it on the lineman’s word. What a pillock. Vermaelen’s too smart to pull the man down in that situation. I am so sick of the officials getting these decisions wrong week in, week out. That could have been our ‘title challenge’ over right there. As it is Almunia pulled off a magnificent save. But we’re still a man down for Birmingham now. Song covered magnificently though and will presumably do the same at Brum. I feel sure we can get a win there next Saturday – as long as they don’t break our legs again.

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