Verdict: Total goals over 2.5
Best odds: 17/20
Arsenal are set to play host to West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium in North London on Wednesday, as the Premier League clubs prepare for the 17th round of the campaign, played from Tuesday to Thursday.
The two teams currently compete for the same goal – chasing that fourth place and a spot in next season’s Champions League.
It’s been a busy week at Arsenal’s London Colney training ground, though far from amusing for those supporting the club. The Gunners have yet again stripped their captain of the armband.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was left out of the Southampton match on Saturday for disciplinary reasons, manager Mikel Arteta confirmed afterwards. And even though the manager refused to go into details openly, it is believed that the 32-year-old Gabonese returned from a trip to France last week a day later than was agreed.
A similar fate hit midfielder Granit Xhaka, who lost the armband following an outburst towards the supporters last year. But while Xhaka opened the door back into the team for himself afterwards, it remains to be seen what happens with Aubameyang in the near future.
Be that as it may, Arsenal are currently in sixth place with 26 points to their name, two behind the top four spot they’re after. Manchester United are squeezed in between with 27, while arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur sit directly below with 25. It promises to be a tight race.
Arteta’s team are on a mixed run of form at the moment. They beat Watford by 1-0 at home, then got destroyed 4-0 at the hands of Liverpool at Anfield, triumphed 2-0 at home over Newcastle, lost 3-2 away to Manchester United and 2-1 away to Everton, before finally regaining some confidence as they thrashed Southampton at home by 3-0.
Alexandre Lacazette, who wore the armband in that match, opened the scoring in the 21st minute and Martin Odegaard doubled it six minutes later. It was defender Gabriel Magalhaes who set the final score two minutes after the hour-mark.
Arsenal have confirmed that Aubameyang won’t be included in the matchday squad. Alexandre Lacazette is the obvious candidate to start upfront, along with Bukayo Saka on the right and Martin Odegaard as the No.10. Gabriel Martinelli will be hoping to keep his place on the left, with Emile Smith Rowe pushing to start instead.
Granit Xhaka is back from a medial collateral knee injury, which made him miss around two and a half months of action. He started against Everton and Southampton, but now he could get a rest in favour of Albert Sambi Lokonga or Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
At the back, goalkeeper Bernd Leno and left-back Sead Kolasinac are injury doubts, though neither would be likely to start anyway. The place between the posts belongs to Aaron Ramsdale, while Kieran Tierney should take the left flank. With Tahekiro Tomiyasu on the right, Gabriel Magalhaes and Ben White should continue as the centre-back pairing.
West Ham United
Few will have expected the Hammers to earn a place in Europe at the end of last season, but here they are, about to skip the round of 32 and go straight from the group stage into the round of 16, due to a change in the format of the competition. David Moyes’ men won Group H convincingly, finishing ahead of Dinamo Zagreb, Rapid Vienna and Genk.
Things are going similarly well for West Ham in the Premier League as well. They are the only team to have inflicted Liverpool with a defeat this season so far – nobody else has done it in any competition, and they’ve recently added the Chelsea scalp to their collection. As for the Carabao Cup, they’ve knocked out both Manchester teams.
The Hammers are fourth at the moment, with very little chance of catching up with the leading trio, with with a very good chance of fighting for the Champions League qualification to the very end. There can be no doubt that Moyes has put together a proper competitive team.
Having beaten Rapid in Vienna by 0-2, West Ham were able to enter the final round of the Europa League group relaxed and the 0-1 defeat to Dinamo at home meant didn’t hurt them at all. Apart from those two matches, their last six outings include a 2-1 defeat away to Manchester City, a 1-1 draw at home against Brighton and Hove Albion, a 3-2 win at home over Chelsea, and goalless draw away to Burnley.
This match promises to be a very interesting contest, one which could easily go either way. Both have quality but neither have shown much consistency, so it probably depends basically on what kind of a day the players have at the office.
There should, however, be goals in it.
Verdict: Total goals over 2.5
Best odds: 17/20
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