Arsenal will be hoping to move back into fourth place in the Premier League table when they host London rivals West Ham at the Emirates.
As the Gunners struggled to overcome Wigan in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday, Everton’s win at Sunderland put the Toffees two points clear of the north London club in fourth place. But a win over the Hammers would put the pressure right back on the Toffees, who take on an in-form Crystal Palace outfit on Wednesday.
West Ham are all but mathematically safe after a season in which performance levels have oscillated wildly, but with Sam Allardyce at the helm, it’s difficult to see them tailing off in a manner akin to some of the teams currently stranded in mid-table.
Here, we preview this crucial showdown at the Emirates and provide you with all the details required on where to catch the game:
Venue: Emirates Stadium, London
Date: Tuesday, 15 April
Time: 7:45 p.m. (BST), 2:45 p.m. (Eastern Time)
TV: Live on Sky Sports HD1(UK) and NBCSN (US)
Arsenal: (4-2-3-1) Szczesny; Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs; Ramsey, Arteta; Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky; Giroud
West Ham: (4-5-1) Adrian; Demel, Tomkins, Reid, McCartney; Diame, Noble, Nolan, Taylor, Downing; Carroll
After a gruelling 120 minutes against Championship side Wigan in the FA Cup semi-final, Arsene Wenger admitted he has a host of injury concerns ahead of this clash with the Hammers.
The Wembley contest has clearly taken it’s toll on a squad that has already been punctured with fitness problems, and in his pre-match press conference, Wenger admitted that plenty of his players are touch-and-go when it comes to Tuesday's game:
West Ham boss Allardyce also admitted he has some fitness worries ahead of this one, with his skipper Kevin Nolan a fitness doubt with a hamstring injury:
SA: "Kevin Nolan came off with a hamstring injury last week and that's one that we have to be careful about."— West Ham United FC (@whufc_official) April 14, 2014
Arsenal come into this match on the back of a four-game winless run in the Premier League and whilst the players will have been delighted to reach an FA Cup final, the performance didn’t really suggest that this team have turned a corner. The Gunners were ponderous, casual and lacking in any kind of dynamism against Wigan; that must change against a dogged West Ham side.
After a draining semi-final, the Hammers are probably one of the last teams that you’d want to play a mere three days later. They'll be playing without pressure going into this one and they'll be looking to ruffle Arsenal's feathers from the off.
The Irons were a little unlucky not to get something from their recent league game against leaders Liverpool, and Allardyce is hopeful of getting a result at the Emirates if they can obtain a comparable standard of performance:
SA: "I hope the players can repeat the performance they gave against Liverpool because they took them right to the edge."— West Ham United FC (@whufc_official) April 14, 2014
West Ham will look to utilise the aerial ability of Andy Carroll to exploit Arsenal’s perilously soft centre. The former Liverpool man caused a host of problems against his former club last weekend and looks to be rediscovering his best form after a campaign that has been blighted with injury woes.
It’s precisely this type of threat that Arsenal have struggled against in the past, and Wenger admits his side will have to pay special attention to the powerful forward:
Wenger: "We must take extra care of Carroll because he is very difficult to compete with in the aerial challenges" #AFCvWHU— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) April 14, 2014
But Arsenal have plenty of quality themselves and if they manage to fall into an early rhythm then they should have enough to win the game. Aaron Ramsey’s return from injury has been a big positive in an otherwise bleak few weeks and the Welshman will be desperate to get out on the pitch at the Emirates for the first time in 2014.
The former Cardiff man insists that despite the current doom and gloom that has engulfed the club, the Gunners are still on course for a successful season, per John Drayton of the Mail Online:
This could be one of the most successful seasons at Arsenal for many years.
We’ve had a few bad results recently, especially away from home against the big teams, and that has damaged confidence.
But we are in the final of the FA Cup and battling for fourth in the League so we still have a lot to play for and a great chance to end our season on a high.
To finish fourth place, the Gunners have to win this one. Any dropped points now would surrender huge initiative to Everton and Arsenal need to keep putting the Toffees under pressure if they are to secure that Champions League spot.
They should just have enough here. West Ham will make things extremely difficult for a leggy Arsenal team, but that added quality within the Gunners’ ranks will give the home side the edge at the Emirates.
Prediction: Arsenal 1-0 West Ham