Arsenal vs. West Ham: 5 Key Battles to Watch

James McNicholasFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2013

Arsenal vs. West Ham: 5 Key Battles to Watch

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    Arsenal are yet to win a Premier League match in January, and the visit of West Ham is unlikely to provide them with an easy reprieve.

    Sam Allardyce seems to particularly relish his battles with Arsenal, and will have identified key areas for his side to exploit in the game.

    Over the next five slides we'll take a look at the important individual battles in this clash between Gunners and Hammers.

Abou Diaby vs. Mohamed Diame

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    The clash between Abou Diaby and Mohamed Diame is particularly intriguing in the light of rumours linking the latter with a move to the Gunners.

    Both are powerful players, capable of breathtaking runs through the midfield. Indeed, if Diame were to join Arsenal, he would most likely provide back-up for the frequently injured Diaby.

    Last time these two teams met, Diaby was absent—injured, of course—and Diame scored a fabulous solo goal.

    It will be fascinating to see which of the pair gets the upper-hand as they finally come face-to-face.

Bacary Sagna vs. Matt Jarvis

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    Matt Jarvis was outstanding in West Ham's last game against QPR.

    Sam Allardyce estimated that the Hammers had put in some 46 crosses during the match, with Jarvis responsible for the majority, including the one which created the equaliser for Joe Cole.

    Bacary Sagna, meanwhile, had a torrid time against Chelsea. He was particularly guilty on Juan Mata's opener, letting the Spaniard run beyond him far too easily.

    Sagna will have to be much improved if Jarvis is to be prevented from wreaking havoc on the flank against Arsenal.

Olivier Giroud vs. Winston Reid

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    Olivier Giroud was guilty of missing a gilt-edged chance in the first five minutes at Stamford Bridge. He'll be keen to get back on track in this fixture with the team against which he scored his first Premier League goal back in September.

    He won't find it easy against Winston Reid, however.

    Reid impressed in West Ham's promotion campaign last year, but few expected him to survive the step up to the highest level. In fact, he has gone from strength to strength, and the Kiwi centre-half is now recognised as one of the best newcomers in this season's Premier League.

    If Arsenal are to overcome West Ham, Giroud will need to win his aerial duel with Reid.

Mark Noble vs. Jack Wilshere

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    Mark Noble and Jack Wilshere provide the heartbeat of their respective teams.  The battle between these two young English midfielders, both replete with technical gifts and plenty of spirit, ought to be fascinating.

    Both players are responsible for the metronomic passing that makes their team tick. The major difference is that Noble's passing is typically longer than Wilshere's, as per Sam Allardyce's direct game-plan.

    Jack Wilshere will be particularly keen to make an impression against the club he supported as a boy. Noble is a talented player in his own right, but I suspect he'll struggle to live with Wilshere in his current form.

    If Wilshere can win this fight, then Arsenal will have a great chance of winning the game.

Theo Walcott vs. Joey O'Brien

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    Theo Walcott's performance at Stamford Bridge typified his excellent season. He was quiet for long periods in the first half, frustratingly offside on more than one occasion, and on the periphery of Arsenal's passing game.

    Then he timed one run to perfection and finished confidently past Petr Cech. That is what he can do: it only takes a second.

    Joey O'Brien, West Ham's de facto left-back, will be all too aware of that searing pace. He will know he has no chance of winning a straight race with Walcott, so will have to use every trick in the defender's proverbial book to contain him.

    Walcott, on the other hand, will be looking to use his extraordinary physical gifts to exploit a possible weak point in the West Ham back line.

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    What do you think? Where will this game be lost and won? Let us know below.