The fact that it feels like it has been forever since Arsenal last played a Premier League match says a lot about the densely packed holiday fixture list Arsenal dealt with last month. However, it has been a week of rest and recuperation for the majority of Arsenal’s starters, as a cadre of platoon players and a few notable names made relatively easy work of Blackpool during Arsenal’s midweek FA Cup match up at the sea side tourist town.
However, this week also saw half a dozen first team players return to training, including Dinos Mavropanos, who missed the entire first half of Arsenal’s season with a groin injury. The fact that 5 out of the 6 returning players are defenders shows how rough the state of Arsenal’s defense has been and the toll that December took on the Gunners’ back line. The return of starters Hector Bellerin and Shkodran Mustafi should greatly bolster the Gunner’s defense.
We've got a positive team news update ahead of our return to @PremierLeague action— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 9, 2019
Last week, Arsenal began the new year in convincing fashion, putting Fulham to the sword at the Emirates with a dominant 4-1 victory. This weekend, Arsenal take a trip across London to face West Ham for the second time this season with hopes of securing a double against the Irons.
In the first matchup this season, Arsenal dispatched West Ham at the Emirates 3-1, with goals from Nacho Monreal, Danny Welbeck, and Owen Goal with an assist from Issa Diop. Arsenal struggled with the Hammers and trailed 0-1 after 25 minutes. It wasn't until the 70th minute that they finally pulled ahead after Diop redirected an Alexandre Lacazette shot into the back of the net.
West Ham, who currently sit 10th on the table, upped their bid to be rechristened Arsenal Lite this month when they signed Samri Nasri, who last featured for Turkish side Antalyaspor before a lengthy ban from professional football in February of 2018 following a doping scandal kept him off the pitch for 10 months. He joins former Arsenal players Jack Wilshere, Lucas Perez, and Łukasz Fabiański in Manuel Pellegrini’s Home for Wayward Gunners.
Depending on whether a few of Arsenal’s injured defenders are match fit, Unai Emery should field a fairly routine lineup. In the wake of the defensive attrition, the last few matches have seen the rise of Sead Kolasinac as one of Arsenal’s more influential members of the attack, as he has grown into his role as the left wingback in Emery’s system. With Alex Iwobi ahead of him on the wing, Arsenal’s left side has become a strength, as both Kolasinac and Iwobi contributed assists in the 4-1 thrashing of Fulham.
What will be interesting is how Emery chooses to utilize Aaron Ramsey. After news broke this week that the Welshman had reportedly agreed to terms with Juventus ahead of a move in the summer transfer window, it could create a bit of a selection headache, as there may be little incentive for Emery to field a player who has his eyes elsewhere. However, he may be forced to utilize Ramsey if Mesut Ozil, who missed the Fulham match with a knock, is unable to play.
With how tight the battle for the top four has become, Arsenal will need to make the most of their trip to London Stadium ahead of their important home match with Chelsea next week.
WHAT: Arsenal at West Ham
WHEN: 7:30am EST/4:30am PST/3:30pm BT
WHERE: London Stadium
US TV: NBCSN
US Stream: NBC Sports
Worldwide info: livesoccer.tv
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