Arsenal’s search for an overdue win takes them to the London Stadium as they face West Ham United looking to end their worst run of form for 42 years.
Preview and Stats
The Gunners are now nine games without a victory across all competitions following Thursday night’s home defeat at the hands of Brighton & Hove Albion.
Manager-less, on their worst winless run since 1977 and with speculation growing around their captain and best player – Arsenal come into this London derby in full crisis mode.
Thursday’s abject home defeat at the hands of Brighton saw a disastrous 2019-20 campaign plunge to new depths as interim boss Freddie Ljungberg’s first home game in charge ended in despair.
The Swede has now picked up only one point from his two games at the helm when Arsenal would ordinarily expect a maximum return against Norwich City and Brighton, leaving both him and the club in desperate need of victory against another of his former employers.
Ljungberg made 26 appearances during his solitary season with West Ham, but there is no doubt that his English allegiances lie with Arsenal and any hopes he had of landing the job on a permanent basis have not been helped by the two performances and results so far.
Certainly, the picture does not look pleasant for the Gunners; they are 10 points adrift of the Champions League places – a gap which could have grown to 13 by the time they kick-off against West Ham – and have not won a game in any competition since their unconvincing 3-2 triumph over Vitoria Guimaraes in the Europa League on October 24.
The wait for a Premier League victory stretches back to October 6 and they have only won two of their last 13 outings in the top flight. Over the course of the whole season so far, only the bottom two have won fewer games than Arsenal’s tally of four.
Sitting firmly in mid-table ahead of the weekend’s action, Arsenal are only five points clear of the relegation zone and are already a whopping 12 points off their own pace from the same stage last season. Even in Arsene Wenger’s much-maligned final term in charge, the Gunners were nine points better off after 15 games.
The last time Arsenal had fewer points than their current tally of 19 at this stage of a season was in 1975-76 when they went on to finish 17th, narrowly avoiding dropping into the second tier for the first time since 1915.
While a similar fate is surely beyond a team still boasting the talents of Mesut Ozil, Nicolas Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the happiness of those players must surely be starting to wane and the latter is understood to have pulled the plug on contract talks following the Brighton defeat.
One positive thing ahead of the match is that Arsenal have at least not lost back-to-back games since April, but it specifically wins which they now need and one over West Ham would come in a timely fashion ahead of a big week.
The Hammers have picked up just one point from their last four outings on the road – including matches against Crystal Palace, Sheffield United, and Newcastle United – while across the course of the season so far only Watford have amassed fewer points in front of their own fans.
It is no surprise that the supporters are growing increasingly frustrated with their side, then, resulting in growing pressure on the shoulders of manager Manuel Pellegrini.
That pressure was temporarily relieved by an unexpected 1-0 win at Chelsea last weekend, but Wednesday night’s 2-0 defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers was their fourth loss in their last five league games and left West Ham just two points clear of the relegation zone.
Indeed, should results go against them over the weekend then they could start this match in the relegation zone following a run of only one win in nine league games, during which time they have conceded 18 goals.
Arsenal are very much there for the taking at the moment, though, and West Ham will no doubt draw confidence from the fact that they have already beaten Manchester United and Chelsea this season, half of their wins for the campaign coming against members of the ‘big six’.
Should they add the Gunners’ scalp to that list then they would move level on points with Ljungberg’s side, but they also risk losing three games in a row for the first time at the London Stadium. Not since October 2013 have the Hammers lost three consecutive home league games.
Ljungberg could be tempted to make changes with one eye on Thursday’s Europa League tie with Standard Liege and the busy fixture schedule beyond that, but also in response to such a tepid performance.
Record signing Pepe did make an impact when he came off the bench at half time and will hope to have done enough to earn his first league start since October, while Matteo Guendouzi and Kieran Tierney are also pushing for inclusion.
Shkodran Mustafi’s absence from the matchday squad did not have a notable improvement on their defensive efforts either, so the German may be brought back into the fold either on the bench or as a starter.
West Ham, meanwhile, will hand late fitness tests to a number of players, including Robert Snodgrass after he picked up a knock against Wolves which forced him off shortly after the hour mark.
Michail Antonio sat that match out as he continues to work his way back from a lengthy absence, but he could be back available for this one and maybe brought in to lead the line in place of misfiring £45m signing Sebastien Haller.
Former Arsenal stalwart Jack Wilshere is another who could be involved following his latest injury absence, while Winston Reid is also nearing a return from a problem that has plagued him since March 2018.
Manuel Lanzini and Lukasz Fabianski remain sidelined, though, with both pushing to be fit for around the turn of the year.