I don't like matches where we're supposed to win hands down. I always worry that the players will come out thinking that turning up will be enough - like the West Brom game a few weeks ago. I also worry that the opposition goalkeeper will choose their match against Arsenal to play the game of his life, which brings me nicely to tomorrow's visitors, West Ham United.
You might remember that West Ham were the first away team to win at our new stadium. It was a game that was unbelievably one-sided as Arsenal dominated from the kick-off. Bobby Zamora nicked a goal for West Ham in the first-half, and Robert Green decided to be Gordon Banks for the day, turning in the sort of display that would shock anyone who watched him at the World Cup, or since the start of this season. It was, without a doubt, the finest performance of Green's career and I recall that it came on the back of one or two errors in the preceding matches. Do you see now why I might be a little apprehensive about the game tomorrow? Green has been in the middle of a recurring nightmare since the USA game in the Summer, and most Saturday's since the start of the season he's been going through it over and over again. His mistakes have piled up as the season has gone on, and West Ham find themselves bottom of the table, largely as a result of his ineptitude. I am scared that he will choose tomorrow to become a West Ham superhero, just for the day. One thing is for certain, our forwards must put the necessary pressure on a goalkeeper who is seemingly even more vulnerable than our own. Every cross must be put in to the right area, and attacked with vigour. And we must also take on a few shots when the opportunity arises, rather than the interminable "after you, after me" nonsense we see far too often. It may seem churlish to criticise the lack of goal attempts from a team averaging three goals per match, but anyone who has to sit through it week after week will know exactly what I mean.
With a big Champions League game in midweek Kieran Gibbs might have been expected to get his second game in a row tomorrow. We all know, however, that young Kieran seems to be made from the same glass as Robin Van Persie. As a result Gael Clichy is going to get the sort of workload over the next few weeks that he could probably do without - perhaps shipping out Traore wasn't such a good idea. Gibbs will be out for "2-4 weeks" apparently (I'm saying nothing), so maybe someone like Tom Cruise might get a run out in the last two European Cup games, if we can get the necessary result in Donetsk - that's for another time. I would expect Koscielny to line up with Squillaci in the centre of the defence, following an impressive comeback by the younger Frenchman against Newcastle.
In midfield we can expect Cesc and Song to play in their usual roles, and I'd be surprised to see Denilson replaced, with Jack Wilshere suspended and Abou Diaby injured...again. The interesting selection will concern Arshavin. With Theo Walcott playing 90 minutes on Wednesday I reckon the Russian will keep his place tomorrow, but he is seriously under pressure now in my opinion. There is no way the Manager can leave out Samir Nasri, so Arshavin would be the obvious choice when Wenger decides to unleash Walcott again. Bendtner's return to the side has been impressive and encouraging, but I can't see him replacing Marouane Chamakh in the starting eleven this weekend. I think the line-up might look a little like this:
Fabianski - Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy - Song, Denilson, Fabregas - Arshavin, Chamakh, Nasri.
West Ham will be missing Matthew Upson, apparently. Their reserves, who included the likes of James Tomkins, were battered by Arsenal last week, so let's hope they're having real trouble in defence tomorrow. I do think they can score goals though. I've always felt Carlton Cole is pretty underrated, and would be a fine player in a good side. In Piquionne and Obinna they have two quick and dynamic goalscorers, both of whom have the ability to damage Arsenal tomorrow. Noble and Parker are both very fine players in midfield, so there is plenty about West Ham to provide some caution to the Arsenal players tomorrow.
The bookies have us down as certainties. I don't. It stands to reason that, if Arsenal put in the required effort, they will win the game (provided Green keeps off the Pat Jennings juice). Win the battle of effort, and Arsenal must surely win the game of football - turn up and ponce around the pitch, on the other hand, and Arsenal might just get stung. Let's hope it's the former. I'll post a review here on Sunday as it's my cricket club presentation evening tomorrow night, and I have a trophy to collect for the first time in 11 years!