Monday, January 30, 2023

The Numbers Game: Jesus-less Arsenal hope Nketiah can continue Gunners´ Boxing Day streak against We

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 25 Dec 2022

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It may sound bizarre in practically every way, but the Premier League resumes on Boxing Day following its mid-season World Cup break.

Barely eight days on from the World Cup final in Qatar, England’s top flight returns with no one able to afford a sluggish resumption.

Of course, much has changed since Premier League teams were last in action in early November, and in one respect nowhere is that truer than at Arsenal.

Although top of the table, the Gunners are now without the man that many felt was key in transforming their fortunes this season, with Gabriel Jesus facing a significant spell on the sidelines due to injury.

Their season resumes at home to West Ham on Monday, with all eyes on how well they adapt without the Brazilian.

Boxing Day omens

The festive period is usually fairly unpredictable due to the sheer number of games teams have to play in December. The circumstances are obviously a little different this year.

With that in mind, most players should be fairly fresh, even considering those midweek EFL Cup exploits.

Perhaps then Arsenal will be even more confident of continuing their excellent record on Boxing Day, having last lost at home on December 26 in 1987. That is a run of 13 games without defeat – the last 10 of those were victories.

West Ham’s recent record couldn’t be much more different, having won just one of their past eight Boxing Day games – home or away – with a defeat of Swansea City in Wales six years ago the exception.

Does form matter?

If we rewind to early November, Arsenal were flying.

They won each of their previous nine Premier League home games before the season’s break, with six of those wins coming this season.

Victory on Monday would equal their longest winning home run from the start of a top-flight campaign after also winning their first seven in 1934-35, 2005-06 and 2017-18.

Arsenal won their last three league matches, including at Chelsea and at Wolves, by an aggregate score of 8-0; they have not won four in a row without conceding since May 2014.

And to top it all off, West Ham lost each of their three most recent games to leave them with 11 away losses for the calendar year, last losing as many as 12 back in 2013.

But those respective runs and streaks were last added to roughly six weeks ago, so how much will they really count for? Certainly, for West Ham, the only way is up.

Gunned down

Hammers boss David Moyes has a generally dreadful record against the so-called top six.

It’s become a bit of a feature in the Premier League, and Monday’s trip to Arsenal puts his record back in the spotlight.

He has lost more away games against Arsenal in all competitions than he has any other opponent (17).

Further to that, he has only faced Chelsea (23 matches) on the road more often without ever winning than he has the Gunners (21).

Can Moyes finally end his Arsenal hoodoo?

Nketiah looks to answer the call

Jesus’ absence for Arsenal is more than just about a goals output.

The Brazilian’s haul of five in 14 Premier League games this term is hardly the stuff of legend, but he has offered so much to Arsenal’s general play, bringing an ability to conjure something out of nothing and giving them a feisty edge in attack.

Eddie Nketiah will likely be the one to profit from Jesus’ absence in terms of first-team minutes. The two players are significantly different, but the young Englishman might argue he will bring more of a goal threat.

In his previous 10 starts across all competitions at Emirates Stadium, Nketiah has scored 10 goals from just 15 shots on target.

Before this run, Nketiah netted only three goals in his first 10 home starts for Arsenal.

No one expects him to fully replace Jesus’ influence, but helping the Gunners kick-start the season again with a positive impact against West Ham could be the reassurance some Arsenal fans need while awaiting the Brazil forward’s return.

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SoccerNews

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