West Ham’s narrow Europa League defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt was the best possible result for Arsenal ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash. Unfortunately, this means absolutely nothing when it comes to Arsenal Football Club. Can they break the mould and pick up a crucial victory at the London Stadium?
On countless occasions over the years – and even this season – Arsenal have gone into a match that they have no right to lose, and of course, lost. Whether it was Everton away when a portion of the home support walked out in protest of the club’s ownership and form, or the home game against Brighton – who were on a woeful run of form – the Gunners refuse to do things by the book.
When all top-four hope seemed lost following three straight defeats against Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton; Tottenham and Manchester United have faltered, meanwhile, Arsenal have resurrected their season with back-to-back wins against Chelsea and the Red Devils. Mikel Arteta side’s form is a perfect summary of life as an Arsenal fan; to pretty much throw away Champions League football against three teams with nothing to play for, only to be back in the driving seat following victories against the current European champions and the most successful team in English football.
This takes us to Sunday when Arteta’s men will take on David Moyes’ West Ham United at the London Stadium.
The full-time whistle will blow at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as the Arsenal players warm up in east London, with Spurs hoping to get back into fourth-place when they host Leicester City – who, like West Ham, were in European action on Thursday night. It’s beneficial for both north London teams to face a team with their priorities lying elsewhere, however, players will come in with a point to prove and a starting XI berth to fight for as Brendan Rodgers and Moyes rest their main men for next week’s second legs.
There is a chance that Arsenal might have to face off against Spurs in a one off '39th' game to decide who qualifies for the Champions League.
This will happen if they end the season equal on points, goal difference and head-to-head results.
Imagine the atmosphere 🤯 pic.twitter.com/ki8K7V217K
— TheAFCnewsroom (@TheAFCnewsroom) April 28, 2022
A one-goal defeat for the Hammers against Frankfurt on Thursday was perfect for Arsenal. They are still in the tie so will have to continue to prioritise that competition. This means you can expect to see Declan Rice, Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio handed a rest on Sunday. All three were benched last weekend against Chelsea, with Rice and Bowen coming on in the second 45 minutes. The same could easily happen this weekend, but with a comeback needed in Germany, Moyes could leave the crucial trio out altogether.
The Irons have defensive issues, with Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna unlikely to play again this season. Kurt Zouma is just back from injury and may not be risked by Moyes. Importantly, Craig Dawson is suspended after conceding a penalty at Stamford Bridge in their last league encounter.
Arsenal need to take advantage of this situation with their Champions League fate in their own hands. It’s time to do what they hate to do: win a game that they have no right to lose.
The Gunners were far from their best against Man United last week but got the job done. Emile Smith Rowe had a quiet afternoon and so did his substitute, Gabriel Martinelli, but the latter should start against West Ham as Smith Rowe’s impact off the bench has the potential to win any game for Arsenal. The only other change that has to be made is in defence. Cedric Soares has performed above expectations in Takehiro Tomiyasu’s absence, but it is time for the Japanese to come back into the starting XI and steady the defence. His presence allows the left-back to attack more, and that is what we need from Nuno Tavares, with his defending ability suspect to say the least. Finally, Eddie Nketiah deserves to keep his place up top as he provides a much more direct and dangerous option in comparison to Alexandre Lacazette.