Its only game week three, but Saturday’s home fixture against West Ham feels like a must win. Following back to back defeats Unai Emery has courted a large amount of media attention with his instruction to play out from the back called into question. Despite the frustrating loss at Stamford Bridge and poor individual errors, the chances we created in the first half gave me confidence for our upcoming fixtures. Alex Iwobi’s goal to make it 2-2, completed a fantastic 18 pass combination which started with the ball being played out of defence. This wonderful passage of play was as exciting as it was incisive. A few more of those should shift the critical narrative already starting to spawn.
Stepping into the shoes of one of the greatest and most iconic managers to ever grace the game was never going to be easy, especially with the level of scrutiny that comes with such a transition. Luckily for the Spaniard, I feel the majority of the fan base are pragmatic enough to realise he needs time to stamp his style on the club, the tactics and the poorly balanced squad he inherited. His conviction with his tactical approach and substitutions is refreshing and he is going to need it over the next five games.
On Saturday we host West Ham at the Emirates. The last thing you need when you are chasing a win is a derby, but luckily for us the Hammers look out of sorts. After back to back losses including an unexpected home defeat to Bournemouth, Manuel Pellegrini is also under pressure. Having become the first team to beat Arsenal at the Emirates with their 1-0 victory in 2007 West Ham have a special bond with the Emirates. Jack Wilshere will also be returning and should receive a warm reception.
This also feels like an important game for Pierre Emerick Aubameyang. He has not shown up in the first two matches. He had an opportunity to show us that he can be our talisman and make meaningful contributions in big games, but he fluffed his lines. I’m confident he can restore faith with a brace on Saturday.
I’m intrigued to see Emery’s starting 11, but I suspect we will see the same team that started against Chelsea. As long as we keep the vociferous Marko Arnautovic quiet we should have too much quality and athleticism for the Hammers.
I’m predicting a comfortable 3-1 victory. The players now owe Emery a performance on Saturday.
I also had a thought about Shkodran Mustafi and I think he would be better deployed as a right back.