Arsene Wenger's side are sixth on the table, four points behind fifth-placed Everton and seven points behind Tottenham Hotspur in fourth. Alarmingly for Wenger, Arsenal have taken just one point from their past three matches, with defeats to Chelsea and Manchester City on the back of a draw against lowly Southampton. As a result, Arsenal are equal on points with Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion and only one point above ninth-placed Swansea City.
"There are a lot of teams that have got stronger this year, so we need to step on the gas," midfielder Theo Walcott told the Arsenal website. "We have a tough game at home against West Ham, so we need to be ready. It is a massive game, we have home support and we need to start clocking up points there."
West Ham, who this week insisted Nicolas Anelka would not be joining the side in January, are 12th in the standings. Former Chelsea and Real Madrid striker Anelka, however, would be a handy addition for West Ham, who have failed to score in seven of their past nine league matches against Arsenal.
West Ham were held to a 1-1 draw with Queens Park Rangers last time out, though manager Sam Allardyce remains confident in his squad. "I'm frustrated that we didn't clinch a win but in terms of our efforts to try and win I can't ask for any more," he said. "Technically and tactically we did exceptionally well because we had the energy to do so. Unfortunately our final ability to score a chance is the one thing that's lacking."
January was always going to be a real test for the Gunners as they faced Manchester City and Chelsea amidst a packed league and cup schedule. But the disappointing aspect for Arsene Wenger will be the fact that his side have nothing to show from the two high-profile games. The contest at Stamford Bridge on Sunday was over almost as sonn as it began thanks to defensive lapses at the back for Arsenal, who allowed Chelsea to race into a two-goal lead within 16 minutes. Theo Walcott's 2nd half goal sparked hopes of a comeback but a blunt Arsenal attack line couldn't salvage a point.
Wenger's attacking options seem wafer thin at the moment, especially with Gertvinho unavailable due to African Cup of Nations duty and Lukas Podolski being struck down by illness. Giroud has chipped in with a few goals but Walcott continues to be the club's biggest attacking threat and it is indeed a huge boost for the club that the 23-year-old has signed on for three more years.
The Gunners have a trip to Brighton to look forward after the West Ham game as the FA Cup returns to action. Following the cup game is a home fixture against Liverpool, a vital encounter in the fight for European spots, and games against Stoke and Sunderland, games in which Arsenal sufferered 0-0 draws earlier in the season.
Francis Coquelin is ruled out of the game due to the hamstring strain he picked up against Chelsea, while Abou Diaby is a slight doubt having been pushed to the limit having started 4 consecutive games in a short span of time on his return from injury. Lukas Podolski is back in training and should start, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remains a 50-50 starter.
West Ham United
The Hammers aren't involved in the relegation scrap below them, sitting a comfortable eight points above 18th placed Reading. But a mere two victories in the last ten league games is a worrying sign for 'Big Sam', especially when they have failed to take three points from games against QPR, Sunderland, and Reading. Returning hero Joe Cole saved their skins over the weekend as he netted an equalizer to cancel out Loic Remy's debut goal for QPR.
The one silver lining for West Ham is that they are only seven points off Everton in 5th place, thus giving them plenty of incentive to put together a run of victories. The Londoners continue to play teams around them in the coming weeks as they face Fulham, Swansea, and Aston Villa and with no more cup distractions, West Ham only have the league to concentrate on.
James Collins is a huge loss for the Hammers with the Welsh defender set to face a few more weeks on the sidelines after tearing his hamstring against Sunderland. Andy Carroll is on the mend though and could be back in action by the end of the month.
6th October, 2012: West Ham 1-3 Arsenal
15th January 2011: West Ham 0-3 Arsenal
West Ham: D/L/L/D/W
Arsenal (4-2-3-1); Szczesny (GK), Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Ramsey, Wilshere, Walcott, Cazorla, Giroud, Podolski
Podolski could make a return to the starting line-up for Wednesday's game, shaking off his illness to Santi Cazorla, Giroud, and Walcott in Arsenal's attack. Mikel Arteta's continued absence through injurt leaves Wenger with a decision to make about his midfield combination, with either Aaron Ramsey or Abou Diaby partnering Jack Wilshere. At the back, Bacary Sagna might have had a poor afternoon at Chelsea but he is till Arsenal's best full-back and he should keep his place alongside Per Metesacker, Thomas Vermaelan, and Kieran Gibbs.
West Ham (4-2-3-1); Jaaskelainen (GK), Demel, Tomkins, Reid, O'Brien, Noble, Diame, Nolan, Jarvis, Cole, Cole
Marouane Chamakh is ineligible to play against his parent club, thus handing Carlton Cole a possible start in Wednesday. Matt Jarvis and Joe Cole should remain in the wide positions while Kevin Nolan plays as the most advanced central midfielder. Arsenal-target Mohamed Diame and Mark Noble will be the hard-working duo in the center, shielding the back-four of Guy Demel, James Tomkins, Winton Reid, and Joey O'Brien.
Prediction: Arsenal 3-1 West Ham United
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