All of a sudden, Arsenal are right back in the Premier League title race.
Three wins on the bounce, including a crucial 3-1 defeat of Liverpool last weekend, has lifted Mikel Arteta’s men within two points of top spot.
They could lose ground in the coming days, with Liverpool and Manchester City both in action in midweek as well as on Saturday. But Arsenal are well positioned to challenge those two clubs for the prize.
Perhaps they were written off too hastily in the first place. Arsenal lost back-to-back games over the festive period, including a 2-0 home defeat by West Ham.
There was very little wrong with their performance on that occasion, however. True, Arsenal were poor in a 2-1 loss to Fulham a few days later. But even then, the gap to first place was hardly insurmountable.
The lack of Premier League matches following those two losses did not help. Arsenal had to wait three weeks until their next top-flight outing, in which they demolished Crystal Palace 5-0.
Further triumphs over Nottingham Forest and Liverpool mean they are now hot on the heels of the Reds and Manchester City.
The underlying statistics support the notion that Arsenal are right up there with those two sides in terms of all-round performance. In fact, the Gunners are above both City and Liverpool – as well as the other 17 teams in the division – in the expected goals table.
Arteta will hope that his players have learned the lessons of last season, when Arsenal led the way for most of the campaign before falling away late on.
There looks to be greater steel to the team this term and that bodes well for the months ahead.
Arsenal dropped two points in this fixture as part of their nervy run-in last season. This is a chance for Arteta’s team to show how far they have come.
West Ham United vs Arsenal betting tips
Arsenal lost to West Ham United in late 2023 but they can make amends at the London Stadium.
Arsenal to win to nil – 7/4 (bet365)
When it comes to expected goals, Arsenal rank only third for the quality of chances created – behind Liverpool and Newcastle United.
It is their ability to limit their opponents to relatively few opportunities that sets them apart. Arsenal have given up just 17.5 expected goals this term. That is, the Gunners would be expected to have had their backline breached on 17 or 18 occasions based on the quality of the chances they have conceded,
That is comfortably the best record in the division. Manchester City are next with 21.6, after which there is a big drop to Liverpool with 28.1.
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Arsenal have actually conceded 22 times, the joint-best record alongside Liverpool. But dig a little deeper and it is clear that Arteta’s team have defended much better overall.
Arsenal have also kept the joint-most clean sheets with eight. They will fancy their chances of registering another this weekend.
Lucas Paqueta, West Ham’s creator-in-chief, remains sidelined, and West Ham have scored just four goals in six matches this calendar year.
Arsenal, you feel, would be content to win this game without too much drama. An uneventful away victory would suit Arteta nicely.
Arsenal’s most common scoreline away from home this season is 1-0 in their favour. They have won three games by that margin in the Premier League, plus another in the EFL Cup.
After a tough spell, their attack has looked in much better shape of late. Arsenal have hit 10 goals past their last three opponents. Gabriel Jesus could return to the XI here to make their forward line even stronger.
Yet West Ham can be difficult to break down. David Moyes still knows how to set up a defence, especially at the London Stadium. Only Liverpool and Manchester City have conceded fewer goals at home this campaign.
With all that in mind, we should not necessarily expect this to be a goal-laden affair.