How Arsenal Will Line Up Against West Ham United

Charlie Melman@@charliemelmanCorrespondent IIApril 12, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 23:  Theo Walcott of Arsenal controls the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on December 23, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

After somewhat unsuccessfully enduring their most difficult stretch of the season so far, Arsenal will look to take every single point from a congested Christmas period.

Their run of fixtures against inferior teams gives them scant time to recoup between each matchup, but the Gunners can and should win their next few games.

The first is a trip across London to face West Ham United, who are currently only one point above the relegation zone in 17th place.

After not using a single substitute against Chelsea, even when it was clear that Arsenal were stagnant, it will be interesting to see if Arsene Wenger makes changes to the side that produced only a single shot on goal on Monday.

He is flush with options in some areas and deficient in others. Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini, Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Tomas Rosicky can all play in midfield. Some of that bunch can rotate with Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Serge Gnabry on the wings.

Yet Arsenal have only Olivier Giroud at striker (excepting Nicklas Bendtner, whose Arsenal career is moribund). The Frenchman really needs to be replaced due to his abysmal recent form, which is putting far too much goalscoring responsibility on wingers and midfielders.

In other areas, Wenger may or may not have a choice, but his selection will be based on form.

Let's take a look at whom he might put on the pitch at Upton Park.


With Laurent Koscielny still out with a knee gash, Thomas Vermaelen will once again captain the side and play alongside Per Mertesacker in Arsenal's defense. If the Belgian keeps playing like he did against Chelsea, Wenger might even give him an extra game or two after Koscielny returns.

Vermaelen was caught a little too far up the pitch a couple times against Chelsea, but the vast majority of his contributions were positive. He threw his body at the ball and seemed drawn to it all game. The effectiveness with which he defended was impressive, considering that he has only started one other Premier League match this season.

Vice-captain Mikel Arteta has earned another start after ending recent mediocre form with an assured and integral display on Monday. His lack of pace is slowly beginning to show, but he can hide it better against opponents like West Ham and tie Arsenal's midfield together.

Why no Mesut Ozil ahead of him?

Ozil has played his entire career in leagues that afforded players a break around this time of year. His recent performances—especially his last against Chelsea, in which he was completely contained—evoke a worn-down player.

Wenger admitted a few days ago that Ozil will need a rest during the hectic Christmas period. He could not give the German a breather against Chelsea, of course, but if Ozil cannot be benched against a team with 14 points, when can he be?

He might have to wait another game to recuperate, but this is as good a time as any.

Santi Cazorla, who will have had something like a winter break after not playing at all against Chelsea, should come back into the starting XI at Ozil's expense. Tomas Rosicky will move into the center and Cazorla to the left wing.

That assumes Rosicky's 33-year-old legs will be up for two games in relatively quick succession, but the Czech has handled such repeated action in the past.

Cazorla will not be more rested at any other point during the season than he is right now. He will have had a 12-day break before Arsenal and West Ham kick off.

The Spaniard's form has been remarkably substandard this season—perhaps partially a function of the fact that he is not as vital as he was last term. Still, Arsene Weger should have introduced him against Chelsea to add creativity and goalscoring potency to a tepid Arsenal attack.

To ensure that a repeat of the Gunners' abysmal showing on Monday does not occur, Wenger needs to field as many dynamic creators as possible to compensate for Olivier Giroud's profligacy.