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Arsenal have won three league matches in a row as they make the short trip to Upton Park to face the struggling Hammers in the third round of the FA Cup.
William Hill Radio’s Tim Sheppard previews……
Arsenal have not won a trophy since their FA Cup final win over Manchester United in 2005. The Gunners are fighting on three fronts this term – the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup.
Their FA Cup campaign may only be beginning as they make the relatively short trip to east London to face West Ham but this famous competition could well be Arsene Wenger’s best chance of ending his side’s recent barren run.
Arsenal should be confident of beating the Hammers in this third round tie and progressing to the fourth round. Wenger’s side are the hot 8/13 favourites to beat the Premier League strugglers and providing the Frenchman picks the vast majority of his first choice line-up then this is definitely the bet.
However, Wenger is Wenger and will likely rest some of his stars. The legendary boss has said that his starting XI won’t resemble that of the generally youth teams he picks in the Carling Cup but until the teams are known then it is hard to judge where to place your money.
Nevertheless one would have thought a second string Arsenal line-up would have too much for West Ham based on current form. The Hammers were rather limp in defeat at Tottenham last time out and Gianfranco Zola has doubts over Mark Noble, Scott Parker, Danny Gabbidon and Herita Illunga. Plus Carlton Cole, Kieron Dyer and Guillermo Franco are definitely missing.
In their absence a huge responsibility will lay on the shoulders of Alessandro Diamanti. The Italian scored the equaliser from the penalty spot back in October when the two teams met at Upton Park. That day Arsenal were leading 2-0 before Zola’s side fought back to 2-2 and that is how it finished.
The way Arsenal dismantled Portsmouth on Wednesday though suggests that the Gunners should be able to cope with West Ham.
With the aforementioned possible changes Carlos Vela could find himself making a rare start and the little Mexican could reward you at odds of 11/2 to score first and 6/4 to score anytime.
Aaron Ramsey would be the one that interests at a bigger price. The Welshman started against Pompey and capped his performance off with a fine solo effort. He is 10/3 to notch another against West Ham.
Portsmouth again underlined Arsenal’s inability to keep a clean sheet when Nadir Belhadj struck a consolation.
Admittedly the Gunners had kept two clean sheets in a row before the match at Fratton Park but with players such as Philippe Senderos likely to play then I would want to be on the both teams selection in the teams to score market at an atrractive looking 3/4.
West Ham will be hoping that they can relive memories of the 1980 FA Cup final when they, a Second Division side at the time, upset a top flight Arsenal side at Wembley. However, on this occasion I don’t think the romance will be on show at Upton Park as Arsenal will hope to get one step nearer to their first trophy since 2005 and in the process extend their current impressive five match unbeaten run.