Sam Allardyce has proved to be a thorn in the side of Arsenal before. Big Sam produces teams that get stuck in and try to rattle their opponents, and in the past this has gained him some success against Arsene Wenger and Arsenal. Add to that the fact that Andy Carroll could be back in the starting line up and you have the recipe for a tough game.
Thomas Vermaelen is a man who relishes a challenge and the Arsenal captain is looking forward to pitting himself against the big England front man tomorrow. Vermaelen has the confidence boost of successfully curbing the threat of Carroll when Arsenal faced Liverpool last year but he is also aware that West Ham play in a style more suited to Carroll’s game.
“At West Ham they play some long balls and with Carroll up front, he’s a tall guy. He’s good with his head so it will be a big challenge.”
Because of his height and form, Per Mertesacker is likely to reclaim his starting position from Laurent Koscielny and, hopefully, will help Arsenal to cut out the defensive errors that have crept in. Mertesacker has not been to Upton Park before and Vermaelen will have prepared him for the hostile derby atmosphere which Vermaelen actually enjoys.
“I must say I like the stadium and the atmosphere there, so it’s quite nice to go there and play again.
“First we have to match them in the fight. If there’s a long ball, we want to fight for that ball and bring it down as quickly as possible and play our own game.”
Arsenal have been a much more solid unit this season and as long as they continue that tomorrow, they have the quality to outplay West Ham, take all three points and give Big Sam something to think about.