West Ham boss David Moyes makes two changes for Arsenal as his late Nayef Aguerd decision is made.
The mid season slumber is over as West Ham head to face league leaders Arsenal on Boxing Day evening.
It seems like an age since West Ham went into the World Cup break off the back of three miserable home defeats in a row against Crystal Palace, Blackburn and Leicester.
For many West Ham fans – and indeed manager Moyes – the World Cup break came at a good time with the side in rotten form and the dark clouds starting to gather over the London Stadium.
At Arsenal the polar opposite was true with Mikel Arteta’s team flying high and bang in form.
Gunners fans feared the World Cup break could impact their side’s momentum and posed an injury risk for some of their star men.
West Ham will find out first hand today whether there is anything to suggest the first part is true.
But the latter certainly proved to be the case with star striker Gabriel Jesus ruled out for three months due to an injury sustained playing for Brazil in Qatar.
West Ham have some injury issues of their own of course. The Arsenal game is expected to come too soon for Kurt Zouma while Gianluca Scamacca is a big doubt after injuring his ankle at Fulham last weekend.
Michail Antonio and Aaron Cresswell have had niggles but are expected to make the match against the Gunners.
Predicted: West Ham boss David Moyes makes two changes for Arsenal as Nayef Aguerd decision made
West Ham boss Moyes makes two changes for Arsenal as Aguerd decision is made.
That’s what we’re predicting when Arsenal welcome the Hammers to north London for the 8pm kick off.
Zouma will be the first change from the team which lost 2-0 to Leicester last time out.
The big decision for Moyes was whether to risk Morocco star Aguerd who suffered an injury that would usually rule players out for around three weeks while playing in Qatar.
Aguerd was surprisingly named in the Morocco team for their semi-final against France. But he pulled out in the warm-up as he felt under the weather as the result of a virus he had been suffering with.
That suggests Aguerd was fit enough to be risked in terms of his injury. But that was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and calculated risk to get through a four-day period. And West Ham will obviously have to take a longer-term view on the issue.
Having not been pictured in training at all ahead of the match Moyes is unlikely to risk Aguerd with a busy schedule coming up and “more winnable” matches on the horizon.
We think he will be replaced by Angelo Ogbonna – who has been able to catch-up on fitness work in the last few weeks.
The Hammers then face a big decision over who to play at right-back. Vladimir Coufal and Ben Johnson have been well short of the required standard for some time and both have been linked with exits. So Thilo Kehrer will continue there.
The other change will see Antonio come in for Scamacca.
The Jamaican striker has been seen in training. But should he also be deemed too much of an injury risk after his recent issues then Jarrod Bowen will move up front and expect to see Manuel Lanzini or Flynn Downes come into the side as a third change with a different look to the midfield.
Predicted West Ham starting XI to face Arsenal:
Fabianski, Kehrer, Dawson, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Rice, Soucek, Paqueta, Benrahma, Bowen, Antonio.