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West Ham Utd v Arsenal: match preview

Filed: Thursday, 23rd October 2008
By: Preview Percy

Next up is Arsenal. Let’s face it - there’s not much to like about this club.

The bribery and corruption that got them promoted, the manager whose eyesight problem is suspiciously selective, the authorities’ lenient approach to consistent breaches of regulations and a fan base that contains more than its fair share of the ignorant all contribute to a club that only its supporters could love.

They have been trophy-free for a few seasons now and this has led to a mini-exodus of more experienced players over the past few seasons. In this season’s window they were unable to persuade the likes of Flamini and Hleb to stay. The frankly bonkers Lehmann was probably past his sell-by date anyway – not that he’d admit it – and departed for Stuttgart having lost his place to Almunia last season. Others, such as Senderos, departed on loan, presumably never to return. On the incoming front Wenger found himself unable to compete financially with Liverpool over Gareth Barry and, presumably upset that he hadn’t thought of illegally approaching the Villa midfielder first, Wenger found himself pulling out of the bidding well before the point at which the scousers themselves withdrew.

Instead we saw a strange transfer with the arrival of Silvestre who was deemed to be surplus to requirements up at Salford. This was apparently the first transfer between the two clubs since Chalks last bought a round. The most notable arrival was probably that of French midfielder Nasri from Marseilles for a reported fee of about £12.5m. All of which means that the current Arsenal squad is more dependent than it used to be on a youth policy that relies heavily on snapping up players produced by other clubs across Europe.

Almunia will start in goal on Sunday. In the absence of Gallas and Toure he has been skippering the side and has amusingly suggested that he would like to play for England when he qualifies next year for a UK passport. It’s a shame really because had he signed for Arsenal a few years previously he might have got into the England side on a passport made out of a John Bull printing set, such documents being par for the course at Highbury in those days.

The starting line-up the other night against Fenerbahce contained an unfamiliar back four in front of Almunia. Injuries to the likes of Gallas, Sagna and Toure saw Song partner Silvestre in the middle with Eboue at right back and Clichy on the left. Eboue arrived a few years back from the Ivory Coast by way of Belgium where Arsenal had a much-criticised “arrangement” with Beveren that exploited the less stringent immigration and football registration laws applicable in Belgium, where African footballers have been mercilessly exploited by clubs, management and agents. Elsewhere across the back, Gallas’ hamstring and Sagna’s ankle are both expected to have recovered in time for Sunday, though Toure’s shoulder is still likely to rule him out.

In midfield, another medium-term absentee is Rosicky who has one of those hamstring chappies. A return by those missing from the defence in midweek may see Eboue move into midfield. Flavour of the month Theo Walcott has been playing on the wing though he does have an eye for goal, though those raving about his hat-trick against Croatia have a habit of going a bit quiet when his performances in the subsequent internationals are raised. Wenger started the kid poached from a cash-strapped Southampton on the bench against Everton, where Fabregas, Denilson, Fabregas and Nasri played across the middle. Walcott had returned for the Fenerbahce match alongside Diaby in a five-man midfield that saw Adebayor up front on his own – though Walcott’s role was more advanced.

Adebayor is a player who ticks at least two of the boxes applicable to the traditional Arsenal striker. Firstly there is the dodgy transfer dealing that saw his club Monaco withdraw from a deal that would have taken him to the Boleyn a few years back despite having agreed a fee and despite the player having agreed personal terms. Any contact between Wenger and his old club at that time was, of course, purely coincidental as was the fact that a few months later Adebayor signed for Arsenal. Adebayor, like his fellow striker Van Persie also enjoys a bit of what the authorities refer to as “simulation” – a tradition that goes back a long way with Arsenal. Interestingly, Adebayor picked up a yellow card for a dive last week against Everton so maybe referees are starting to do their jobs at last.

Van Persie is likely to partner Adebayor up front, with Croatian-Brazilian Eduardo still a month or two away from a return following the horrific broken leg sustained up at Birmingham last season – one incident that was seen in perfect 20-20 vision and Hi-Definition by Arsene Wenger. Also in contention will be Nicklas Bendtner with whom Adebayor had a hilarious row during the 5-1 Carling Cup defeat to Spurs a while back after which they went through a spell where it appeared that they wouldn’t pass to each other.

And what of ourselves? Well personnel-wise I expect us to remain unchanged from the eleven that started up at Hull though there must be a temptation to add James Collins into the squad at least. I would have expected there to have been an emphasis on finishing practice in training this week given the chances that were spurned up on Humberside. The big question is whether Zola is likely to change the formation that he has employed since his arrival that has seen Etherington, Di Michele and latterly Bellamy playing as auxiliary strikers behind Cole, as opposed to a more orthodox 4-4-2 that would see Etherington drop back into the left of midfield. If I had to make a guess I’d expect us to start with the 4-3-2-1 but wouldn’t be at all surprised if we switched at some time during the match if numbers were required in midfield.

This fixture has, of course seen some fun in the past, Viera’s spitting at Neil Ruddock, Bergkamp’s penchant for throwing the elbow about, and of course the stand-up argument between Wenger and Alan Pardew that cost the Frenchman a £10,000 fine for improper conduct. There had been bad blood between the two managers for a few months following comments from Pardew that suggested that Arsenal’s habit of selecting UK player-free teams might not be a particularly good thing for British football. Wenger disgracefully played the “racism” card in response to Pardew’s comments – something that was a bit rich given his club’s aforementioned Belgian connections.

Predictions? Well few outside E13 will be going for a home win for this one – especially given the form shown by the visitors in Europe in midweek. However, there is always an extra unquantifiable edge to a derby match and, against an ordinary Fulham side and a spirited Hull, Arsenal have proved that they are far from invincible. Sunderland too were unlucky to come away with only a point so this is not the mission impossible that many are saying. Of course there have been a few defensive hitches of late in our own defence and the prospect of us winning may depend on our being able to keep an all-too-rare clean sheet. I’ll therefore plump for a 1-1 draw on this occasion in the hope that the officials will keep an eye on the diving!

Enjoy the game!

Last season: Lost 0-1. Robert Green kept Arsenal at bay as yet another terrible decision by the officials against this opponent denied us a share of the points as Ljungberg’s valid equaliser was wrongly chalked off for offside.

Danger men: Fabregas, Walcott.

Look out for: Dives, punch-ups in the technical area and just about anything else that their manager might have difficulty in making out.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

by 'Hammer one' (AFC)
08:31AM 25th Oct 2008
''Ya, that's right, nobody likes Arsenal - well expect perhaps our own Zola, who apparently is crazy about the Gunners and wants to emulate them in every way possible.

That aside I think it would be hard to ignore that they are a far superior side than we are.. thier defence might be a bit fragile right now, but I would fancy us to score.. maybe an own goal from Silvestre is our best bet.

You are a pretty dillusional Hammer I must say.''

by Pigeon
11:56PM 23rd Oct 2008
''I'm fired up now. Down with the Gooners and come on you bloody Irons!''

by Jeff (AFC)
10:00PM 23rd Oct 2008
''I suggest that you look at your own clubs affairs before moralizing on others. Tevez ring any bells? Your Icelandic banker? Brown, Harry Redknapp and a cast of hundreds.

Leave it out you' re having a laugh! I reckon it's a case of as SAF puts it, twitchy bum time here!

3-0 to the Gunners. Hope you stay up though as my wife is an Hammer.''

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