Arsenal aiming for victory at struggling West Ham
Arsenal could close on the Premier League’s leading teams on Sunday when it heads across London to take on struggling West Ham.
Depending upon other results, Arsenal could close to within a point of leader Manchester United and may be able to recall Eduardo da Silva, Tomas Rosicky and Nicklas Bendtner following injury as it goes for the win it needs.
The Hammers are without a victory since the opening day of the season, giving Arsenal real hope of stretching its winning streak in the Premier League to five matches.
“Rosicky and Bendtner are 50-50 but Eduardo should be back,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “I would say only (Theo) Walcott is definitely out.”
With Arsenal the leading scorers in the Premier League with 27 goals from eight matches, Wenger’s young squad is looking increasingly capable of justifying his belief that they can develop into a title-winning side.
Arsenal has not won a trophy for four years and Wenger has repeatedly shrugged off pressure to spend money on big-name signings.
Wenger told Arsenal’s annual general meeting on Thursday that the team could win a trophy this season and was capable of spending the next decade at the top of domestic and European football.
The match at Upton Park is Arsenal’s first since then.
“I know that we haven’t won a trophy for four years, but we have been very close and I believe that this year the team will do it,” Wenger said. “Can you maintain for 10 or 15 years staying at the top in Europe? That’s when you can see if a club is managed well.
“And I believe we’ll achieve that together.”
Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and Samir Nasri played for the reserve team Tuesday following injury, but Wenger said he does not want to rush them back right away.
West Ham is struggling to score goals, with just nine in eight games, and manager Gianfranco Zola is hoping the motivation of playing one of its London rivals lifts his team.
“In my opinion, it is just the kind of game that we need,” Zola said. “We are the underdogs. Nobody is expecting us to do well against Arsenal. But the spirit of the team is very high and we are going to be working very hard.
“If we keep performing well then sooner or later we are going to get the points we deserve. We are very close. You can smell it, you can sense it is very close. We just need the victory that would guarantee a little more comfort to the players and a little bit of confidence.”
Arsenal’s chances of moving up in the standings depend on how United and second-place Chelsea fare.
With Chelsea hosting Blackburn on Saturday, United seems more vulnerable to a slip-up when it is at Liverpool on Sunday.
Liverpool is on its worst losing run for 22 years but twice beat United last season.
“It’s not good for Liverpool Football Club, or any club, to lose four games in a row,” said former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, who now works at the club’s youth academy. “When you have success everybody takes their fair share of the credit, and rightly so. So when it goes badly the same thing must apply in reverse.
“People have made mistakes but it’s how you react to them, that’s the most important thing.”
Defeat for Liverpool would leave it 10 points behind United and facing the prospect of a 20th straight season without the title.
United may be without England striker Wayne Rooney and Scotland midfielder Darren Fletcher, while Liverpool could be missing captain Steven Gerrard and leading scorer Fernando Torres.
Also Saturday, third-place Tottenham hosts Stoke, Aston Villa is at Wolverhampton Wanderers, Wigan is at Burnley, Sunderland is at Birmingham and Portsmouth is at Hull.
Bolton hosts Everton on Sunday, when Fulham is at Manchester City.