Arsenal face another tough physical contest in the English Premier League when they travel to promoted West Ham United on Saturday.
Arsene Wenger’s would-be title challengers suffered their first defeat of the league season last weekend, going down 2-1 at home to Chelsea, who have set the pace early in 2012/13.
Wenger’s men bounced back on Wednesday with a 3-1 win against Olympiacos in the UEFA Champions League, although the scoreline perhaps flattered the home side as they struggled at times in the match at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey blamed the below-par showing in midweek on their exertions in a gruelling contest with Chelsea.
Expect there to be no respite again for Ramsey and company, as they travel to east London to take on West Ham and their manager Sam Allardyce.
Allardyce has sought to marry a potent blend of technique and raw aggression at Upton Park, recruiting the likes of winger Matthew Jarvis from Wolverhampton Wanderers and bringing Israeli playmaker Yossi Benayoun back to the club on loan from Chelsea.
But the star recruit of West Ham’s first season back in the top flight is England centre-forward Andy Carroll, brought in on loan from Liverpool in a major coup for the Championship playoff winners.
Carroll made an immediate impression in his first appearance for West Ham, as they downed Fulham 3-0 at home on September 1.
The former Newcastle United man picked up a hamstring injury in his debut which sidelined him until Monday, when he appeared off the bench in West Ham’s 2-1 win at Queens Park Rangers.
That victory saw West Ham climb to a lofty seventh place in the league table, in unfamiliar territory two points above perennial Champions League qualifiers Arsenal.
If he starts, expect powerful centre-forward Carroll to be a major threat to Arsenal’s inconsistent backline.
Laurent Koscielny was arguably culpable for both of Chelsea’s goals at the Emirates Stadium, and the French centre-back may well be dropped in favour of Germany international Per Mertesacker, who had made an impressive start to the campaign alongside Belgian Thomas Vermaelen.
Arsenal lost powerful midfielder Abou Diaby to injury against Chelsea, depriving Wenger of one of the few players capable of matching it with West Ham’s rugged midfield brigade.
The Gunners’ third-choice goalkeeper Vito Mannone will continue to deputise for the injured Wojciech Szczesny (ankle) and Lukasz Fabianski (shoulder).
Fullback Bacary Sagna (broken leg) and midfielders Jack Wilshere (ankle) and Tomas Rosicky (leg) are all nearing a return to first-team action.
By contrast, Allardyce’s only potential absentee is midfielder Jack Collinson, who has been tipped to return from a knee problem early this month.