Arsenal vs. West Ham: What Gunners Must Do to Avoid Upset

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2013

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Arsenal manager Arsene WengerRichard Heathcote/Getty Images

Arsenal desperately need a win against West Ham to get back on track in the Premier League.

The Gunners have lost two and drawn one since their 7-3 demolition of Newcastle back in December. They find themselves seven points off Tottenham Hotspur, who are in fourth place. Arsenal do have the game in hand, so it could trim the deficit to four points with a win today.

It's now become a seemingly endless discussion as to whether Arsenal will finish in the top four, with the Gunners ending up in a Champions League place at the end of the season.

2012/13 is different, though. This is a club with obvious weaknesses that needs to get back to its winning ways immediately.

Here are three things the Gunners need to do in order to pick up three points against the Hammers.


1. Don't Let Hammers Pour in Crosses

The more West Ham is able to cross the ball in, the higher the chances that they can snatch a goal. This past weekend against Queens Park Rangers, the Hammers unleashed 46 crosses into the penalty area (h/t West Ham official website).

While Sam Allardyce is known for that kind of style, that number of crosses is a bit on the extreme side.

Regardless, he knows West Ham can't win the possession game against Arsenal. The best chance the club has is to hit the ball high up the pitch into the final third.


2. Neutralize Joe Cole

Joe Cole has been in very good form since his move from Liverpool. He recorded two assists in the Hammers' 2-2 draw with Manchester United and scored the team's lone goal against QPR.

As much as the Gunners' midfield is hit right now with injuries, Cole is the kind of player who can hurt Arsenal in the short periods of time when the ball is at his feet.

Kevin Nolan will play a big role for West Ham, without a doubt. It's Cole, though, who should be getting the lion's share of attention from the Gunners' defense.


3. Make Chances Count

The Hammers have only given up 28 goals, which is tied for seventh in the league. More than likely, they'll bunker in against the Gunners.

Arsenal can't afford to waste the chances they create. The last time these two clubs met, Arsenal recorded 21 shots, seven of which were on target. It will be hard-pressed to get that many chances this time around.

Olivier Giroud could be the key for the Gunners. He scored the team's first goal in the 3-1. Giroud could use his strength and size to get the best of West Ham's centre-backs.