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Premier League Preview: West Ham vs. Arsenal — Gunners look to rebound

Dec 25, 2013, 5:40 PM EDT

mesut_ozil_arsenal AP
  • Hammers have lost six in a row to Arsenal; haven’t beaten the Gunners since 2007
  • For first time in three months, Arsenal does not lead the Premier League
  • West Ham is one point above the drop, winless in four league matches

The Irons’ League Cup win over Tottenham has given Sam Allardyce a reprieve, but a Boxing Day loss will remind people of how far West Ham has fallen. The East London side sit only one point above the drop after this weekend’s loss at Old Trafford, with the team still unable to solve their problem scoring goals.

On Thursday, the Hammers welcome Arsenal to East London, with festivities set to begin at 10:00 a.m. Eastern time. NBCSN will have live coverage after the day’s opening match in Hull, with the game at Upton Park also available online via NBC Sports Live Extra.

Andy Carroll‘s absence has left the Hammers shorthanded, with the former Newcastle and Liverpool striker yet to make an appearance this year. That means Modibo Maiga, Carlton Cole, and Ricardo Vaz Te have had to fill the England international’s boots, efforts that have only produced four goals. With 14 for the season, West Ham has the league’s 17th-best attack – the main reason why the Hammers find themselves pulled into a relegation battle.

January gives West Ham a chance to solve their problems, but there may be hope for an early reprieve. In League Cup, against a Spurs team that controlled the ball but could not find a consistent way into the penalty area, the Hammers managed a 2-1 upset at White Hart Lane. While Arsenal won’t be as willing to concede two late goals, the general approach could still work. The Irons have the discipline to win a game they can’t control.

Whether that translates into a result may be in the Gunners’ hands, but with Jack Wilshere suspended and Laurent Koscielny a doubt with the laceration he suffered against Manchester City, the Gunners will be missing a couple of parts. If they prove as meek going forward as they did against Chelsea, the Hammers may be able to rekindle their League Cup magic.

source: Getty Images

Laurent Koscielny missed Monday’s game against Chelsea while recovering from a laceration suffered at Man City. Arsenal are hopeful he’ll be ready for their trip to the Boleyn Ground. (Photo: Getty Images)

Though they’re playing on the road and are missing their best defender, Arsenal have advantages all over the field, whether in defense against West Ham’s striker-starved attack or going forward. Olivier Giroud, Mesut Özil, Theo Walcott, and Aaron Ramsey are capable of beating any defense Sam Allardyce will put out.

If the Gunners play well, Boxing Day should not be a problem.

What they’re saying

Arsène Wenger on the team’s slump: “We’re going through a patch where it’s a bit more difficult but it’s how you deal with that. It’s a bit difficult but we’ll come through it.”

Sam Allardyce, on defender James Tompkins’ arrest for assaulting a police officer: “From a club’s point of view, there is nothing he has broken in terms of rules … I can’t give out any punishment out yet because he has pleaded not guilty and I think when we come to a conclusion in the case, we can see what the situation is … From a football point of view, he is a footballer we need.”

Prediction

Arsenal’s four-match winless run has come against Everton, Napoli, Manchester City and Chelsea. West Ham’s not in that class. If the Gunners play their best, this is a multi-goal win. Even if they struggle, they can snare three points.

Something truly worrisome would have to happen for the Hammers to knock off the Gunners. Then again, that might be what this four-game slide is all about.

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