Premier League preview: West Ham well equipped to expose Arsenal's frailties


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Now that Arsenal's new-found defensive solidity has been exposed as a sham by Gary Neville's superb tactical analysis of their disorganisation at set plays against Chelsea last weekend, the last thing they need is another local derby in front of the television cameras against the team perhaps best equipped to exploit such inefficiencies.

Steve Bould must be gutted. The media were quick to identify his promotion to assistant manager as the underlying cause behind three successive clean sheets but he barely had time to bask in the praise before normal service resumed.

Now Arsene Wenger comes up against his tactical nemesis in Sam Allardyce. Nine times the Frenchman has taken the Gunners on the road in the Premier League to face a team managed by Big Sam, seven times he has returned winless and frustrated. Therefore, you'll understand why we like the 16/5 available on West Ham to beat the Gunners at Upton Park in Saturday's late kick-off.

Wenger did break a long sequence of Sam-inflicted misery with a 2-1 win over Blackburn at Ewood Park in August 2010, but that was his first triumph in eight attempts. Allardyce has won four of the last six meetings in his own backyard. And now he has Andy Carroll.

The big Geordie is back from a hamstring injury and looked in good nick coming on as a second-half substitute in the Hammers' 2-1 win over QPR at Loftus Road on Monday. If you could assemble a striker to play against Arsenal from the components of different men, you wondn't bother - you'd just say 'give me Andy Carroll'.

As such, it should come as no surprise that Carroll has been on the winning team in two starts against the Gunners, both of them at the Emirates. On the first occasion, he scored the only goal with a trademark header for Newcastle under Chris Hughton in November 2010.

Of course, we understand the risks of being a little too blinkered and finishing up with egg on our faces. Arsenal are bound to have worked on their defensive problems this week - at least you'd hope so - and they do retain the capacity to run riot if they can impose long spells of open play on proceedings, but this is very much a price-orientated stance. 

The Gunners went off at 11/10 or shorter a dozen times on the road last season and delivered only five times. Had you backed them to split £10 stakes, you would have finished £37.30 in the red. Backing the opposition turned a profit of £76.

Meanwhile, West Brom represent the best bet in the earlier kick-offs. The Baggies can be backed at 10/11 against QPR and that looks plenty big enough in light of Rangers' shambolic away record under Mark Hughes.

The Hoops have lost ten out of 12 away matches under the Welshman and things aren't likely to change much while Hughes continues to expose a leaky defence with his policy of playing two men up-front at all times, especially against an Albion side that relishes the prospect of picking-off attack-minded opposition.

The Baggies finished tenth last season and you wouldn't rule out an improvement on the basis of what we've witnessed so far this term. Roy Hodgson has put some very solid foundations in place and Steve Clarke is proving himself to be an imaginative replacement, yet the club hasn't fully shaken off the stigma of the yo-yo years if this price is anything to go by.

Betting advice...

2pts West Brom to beat QPR at 10/11 (general)

R's dismal away record set to continue against a team that loves to pick-off attack-minded opposition.

1pt West Ham to beat Arsenal at 16/5 (Ladbrokes)

Hammers have the manager and aerial threat to exploit the Gunners' long-standing defensive woes.

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