Jekyll versus Hyde or Hyde versus Jekyll at the London Stadium this weekend. Both West Ham and Arsenal are struggling for consistency in a season where the mood music surrounding both sides has veered from raging optimism to budding rage.
Manuel Pellegrini seemed to have finally found the handle with which to manage West Ham in December after picking up four consecutive wins.
Since then, the Hammers have gone loss, win, loss, draw – all against mid to lower table opposition. There has been no clean sheet in any of the last four games, two of which have seen the team draw blanks to boot.
Felipe Anderson and Marko Arnautovic have hit doubles in the last two games that they have scored in and their fitness will be vital to the sides prospects going forward.
Arsenal went 14 games without defeat until they met Southampton in the middle of December. At that point, the ‘Wenger-Out’ brigade were looking smart enough.
What followed was much more like the Arsenal vintage of the last few seasons.
Southampton and Liverpool put a collective eight goals past Unai Emery’s men to Arsenal’s three. An away draw against Brighton and comprehensive home wins against Fulham and Burnley complete a confusing set since that undefeated run came to an abrupt end.
One of the constants for Arsenal has been their source of goals. Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang has netted a league leading 14 goals this season and without their new talisman it would be more than interesting to see where Arsenal’s season would lie now. Most likely in the dustbin.
To emphasise the point of how tricky it is to read these sides’ respective form, neither side has put back-to-back anything together in their last five. Wins are followed by defeats which are followed by draws and so on. I’m starting to think I drew the short straw this weekend.
To be fair there’s more than just recent form to assess with this London derby.
12 years ago West Ham beat Arsenal 1-0 at the Emirates Stadium, it was a third head-to-head win on the spin for the Hammers. 23 games later, they’ve won just won more time. There’s been four draws and 19 painful defeats.
That solitary sequence-interrupting victory came four years ago, and since then Arsenal have won out on five occasions with two draws. The Gunners were comfortable 3-1 winners earlier this season.
With one clean sheet (West Ham) between the two sides in their last nine games, it’s safe to say goals should be on the menu in the former Olympic stadium.
The total goals average for Pellegrini’s side is 2.9 per game, for Emery’s Arsenal it’s 3.7.
When Arsenal are the on road that average jumps to 4.3 total goals per game. At home, West Ham’s total goals bumps up to 3.1.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored in his last 4 #PL London derbies, netting 6 goals and adding 2 assists
— Premier League (@premierleague) January 10, 2019
Marko Arnautovic is fit to face the Gunners after a back issue and could line up alongside new signing and former Gunner Samir Nasri.
That’s where the good news ends for West Ham however. They will be without Fabian Balbuena, Winston Reid, Manuel Lanzini, Carloss Sanchez, and Javier Hernandez – all through injury.
Henrik Mkhitaryan, Rob Holding and Danny Welbeck are long term absentees for Arsenal.
They may be able to welcome back Hector Bellerin, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustaafi, Nacho Monreal and Dinos Mavropano. All five defenders have returned to full training.
There’s a temptation to go for a draw only on the basis that both sides are so difficult to back lately. I will however swerve that temptation and pay due heed to the weight of history and the whole of this season’s form.
Arsenal have not only won the vast majority of previous encounters this generation against their cross city rivals, they’ve also put an average of 2.6 goals past them in their last five meetings.
Arsenal to win and over 2.5 total goals
We’re doubling the odds of your first goalscorer bets if you’re selection gets a second at any time for this game.
Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang and Marko Arnautovic have bagged doubles this season and are leading attacking lights for their sides respectively.