West Ham United head into Saturday’s encounter with Arsenal as probably the underdogs, but it is a position the Hammers should try and utilise in order to cause an upset at the London Stadium.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini would certainly fancy his team to put a solid performance together but if there’s one area where the East London club should target the Gunners, then it should be in the air.
With Marko Arnautovic expected to start as a wide centre-forward, Pellegrini should force the 29-year-old to put pressure on centre-backs Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who aren’t the tallest and biggest of defenders.
Despite being solid on the ground, the pair has struggled at times to cope with big players challenging them in the air and Arnautovic could do the same if players like Robert Snodgrass and Felipe Anderson put crosses into the box.
Arnautovic’s physicality should prove to be too much for the Arsenal defenders to handle if Snodgrass and Anderson find the space they need the whip balls towards him.
If the game gets tight, then Pellegrini could even throw Andy Carroll, who is also a tall player, onto the pitch to help Arnautovic in the job.
Both of them would be able to compete in the air and set-pieces should provide a good opportunity for them to strike against Unai Emery’s men.
If Emery is forced to play with a back-three again, then the possibility of Stephan Lichtsteiner starting should also gift an opportunity for Pellegrini to use this tactic.
But this plan should be executed with perfection and the Hammers can’t afford half-hearted attempts to get the ball into the box.
Snodgrass, however, has been brilliant this season and he has proven himself as a worthy provider of assists with excellent crosses and long balls.
Anderson on the other hand enjoys attacking with the ball at his feet more but is also more than capable of finding someone like Arnautovic with clever balls and passes.
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