Dan Coker's Match Preview

Blast from the past

30th April 1994 – The Artist Formerly Known As Prince was number one with ‘The Most Beautiful Girl In The World’ and The Midfielder Universally Known As Mad Dog was scoring one of the most beautiful goals of the season in sealing a 2-0 victory for Billy Bonds’ West Ham United over this weekend’s opponents Arsenal in front of 33,700 at Highbury.

George Graham named a slightly weakened side for the hosts with the European Cup Winners’ Cup Final against Parma taking place just four days after the visit of the Hammers. The game was goalless until the 77th minute when Andy Linighan played a backpass to Alan Miller that fell short, Trevor Morley nipping in to touch the ball past the stranded ‘keeper and slot home into the unguarded net. ’Mad Dog’ Martin Allen wrapped up the three points for the visitors with just two minutes left on the clock – Academy graduate Danny Williamson, who had been sent on for his West Ham debut just a minute earlier, found Allen who produced a stepover to make space before firing an unstoppable bullet of a shot from distance beyond Miller and into the far corner of the net.

The Gunners would finish 4th in 1993/94 and go on to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup, while the Hammers would end their first Premier League campaign in 13th.

Arsenal: Alan Miller, Eddie McGoldrick (Steve Morrow), Steve Bould, Andy Linighan, Nigel Winterburn, Ray Parlour, Paul Davis, Ian Selley, Paul Merson (Paul Dickov), Kevin Campbell, Ian Wright.

West Ham United: Ludek Miklosko, Tim Breacker, Steve Potts, Tony Gale, David Burrows (Danny Williamson), Matthew Rush, Kenny Brown, Martin Allen, Ian Bishop, Mike Marsh, Trevor Morley.

Club Connections

A large group of players have turned out for Arsenal and West Ham United. Carl Jenkinson is currently on loan from the Gunners but will be unable to play against his parent club on Sunday. Other players to have represented both clubs include:

Goalkeepers: Richard Wright, Manuel Almunia, Jim Standen.

Defenders: Eddie Hapgood, Matthew Upson, Nigel Winterburn, Bernard Joy, Steve Walford, Bob Stevenson.

Midfielders: Liam Brady, Stewart Robson, Yossi Benayoun, Archie Macauley, David Bentley, Les Henley, James Bigden, Luis Boa Morte, Roddy McEachrane, Jimmy Jackson, Henri Lansbury, Fred Kemp, Fredrik Ljungberg.

Strikers: Bobby Gould, Jeremie Aliadiere, Jimmy Marshall, Kaba Diawara, Jimmy Bloomfield, Charlie Satterthwaite, Marouane Chamakh, Lee Chapman, Tom Lee, John Hartson, Ted Drake, John Radford, Ian Wright, Davor Suker, Stan Earle.

Ron Greenwood was also assistant manager at Arsenal before becoming manager of West Ham.

Today’s focus though falls on a very recent star of both the Gunners and the Hammers. Alex Song was born on the 9th September 1987 and lost his father at the age of three. Song made 32 appearances for French side Bastia in the 2004/05 Ligue 1 season before Arsene Wenger signed him for Arsenal. Song, initially a centre-back before moving to a defensive midfield role, joined the Gunners on loan for the 2005/06 campaign at the age of 17 before sealing a £1m permanent move the following summer. He spent the second half of the 2006/07 season on loan with Alan Pardew’s Charlton but couldn’t prevent the club from being relegated from the Premier League. Song’s breakthrough season arrived in 2008/09 when, at the age of 21, he made 48 appearances in all competitions for the Gunners, forming an effective midfield partnership with Cesc Fabregas. Song scored five goals in the 2010/11 season, the fourth of which arrived in the 88th minute in a 1-0 win against the Hammers at The Emirates. Song took on a more creative role after the departure of Fabregas to Barcelona in 2011 and was runner-up in the fans’ player of the year poll but joined his former team-mate the following summer, arriving at Camp Nou for a fee of £15m having scored 10 goals in 227 appearances for Arsenal.

After two seasons in La Liga, Song signed for West Ham United on a season-long loan. He made his debut as a second-half substitute in the 2-2 draw at Hull in September 2014 and went on to make 31 appearances, without scoring. Song’s impact on West Ham’s performances and results were highly impressive in the first half of the season as Sam Allardyce’s side rose to the Champions League positions. Song delighted supporters by announcing that he would not travel to the African Cup of Nations and, instead, retired from international duty after drawn-out discussions with Cameroon manager Volker Finke having won 49 caps. The quality of Song’s performances mirrored that of the rest of the team as he never reached the heights of his early season form following this distraction, although this could have been due to an injury which has since required surgery. West Ham are, apparently, still seeking to make Song’s stay in east London a permanent one and there is no doubt that he would be an asset to the squad, particularly if available on a free transfer.

Referee

Sunday’s referee will be Martin Atkinson; 2015/16 is Atkinson’s eleventh as a Premier League referee. Since West Ham United achieved promotion back to the top flight in 2012 Atkinson has refereed ten of our league matches, officiating in five wins for the Hammers, one draw and four defeats. Last season Atkinson was the man in the middle for the Irons’ 2-2 draw at Hull, as well as for our home victories over Manchester City, Leicester and Hull. He also sent off Morgan Amalfitano in our 4-0 FA Cup fifth round defeat at West Brom in February and took charge of our final day 2-0 loss at Newcastle.

Possible line-ups

Arsenal have enjoyed a near faultless pre-season, winning all five of their matches including the Community Shield against Chelsea last Sunday. The Gunners will be without the injured Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Danny Welbeck, while Arsene Wenger is also expected to rest Alexis Sanchez after the Chilean’s exploits in the Copa America earlier this summer. Theo Walcott could be preferred to Olivier Giroud up front.

West Ham United have lost their last nine league encounters with Arsenal and haven’t won at the Emirates since their first match there just over eight years ago, when a Bobby Zamora strike and an inspired performance from Robert Green clinched the points. For the Hammers, Andy Carroll and Enner Valencia are both out, while Winston Reid and Matt Jarvis are doubts. Slaven Bilic, managing for the first time in the Premier League, will hope that Joey O’Brien is fit to start considering Carl Jenkinson is unavailable against his parent club. Pedro Obiang could make the bench having returned to training this week after injury disrupted his pre-season.

Possible Arsenal XI: Cech; Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal; Coquelin, Ramsey; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Ozil; Walcott.

Possible West Ham United XI: Adrian; O’Brien, Tomkins, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Kouyate, Noble; Amalfitano, Zarate, Payet; Sakho.

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!