LONDON: Arsenal’s visit to West Ham on Saturday will rekindle the potentially explosive touchline rivalry between Arsene Wenger and Sam Allardyce.
Arsenal manager Wenger and Hammers boss Allardyce regularly got under each other’s skins when Allardyce was in charge of a Bolton side that revelled in upsetting the top four.
Wenger often criticised Bolton’s physical approach while Allardyce appeared to take particular pleasure in winding up the Frenchman when his team beat an Arsenal side that sometimes struggled against opponents who concentrated on roughing them up.
Now the pair will meet again with Allardyce’s promoted Hammers having moved above Wenger’s club into seventh place to add extra spice to an already red-hot London derby at Upton Park.
Arsenal will be anxious to bounce back following last weekend’s first defeat of the season at home to Chelsea, but Wenger’s squad will make the short trip across the English capital without France midfielder Abou Diaby.
Diaby’s thigh injury prompted Wenger to criticise France coach Didier Deschamps for his decision to select the player in recent internationals despite his fitness problems.
Deschamps, though, has responded forcefully. “I want to remind him (Wenger) that I am the only one to decide who will be picked and how long those who are picked will play,” Deschamps said. “There is only one to decide and it’s me.”
Whether that offers a taste of the verbal spats that might follow between Wenger and Allardyce at Upton Park remains to be seen.
But Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs has warned West Ham his team will be in aggressive mood themselves after getting back to winning ways by beating Olympiakos in the Champions League in midweek.
Arsenal triumphed 3-1, although the scoreline suggested the game was more comfortable than it actually was for Wenger’s side.
Gibbs, who has been called up into the England squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers with San Marino and Poland said: “It was important to bounce back after a defeat against Chelsea at home.
“It was important for the players especially. We wanted to shake off a few doubts in our mind that we had. We certainly did that and we’re back on the front foot now.
“This is what we have to keep doing and keep pushing on from here.”
West Ham will not be short of belief after an impressive win at QPR on Monday that came with the added bonus of a return for Hammers striker Andy Carroll.
And West Ham centre-back James Collins said: “Obviously we’re coming off the back of a good win on Monday and we’re full of confidence.
“Going into the game we’re pretty confident of beating anyone at home, especially with our fans behind us.”
Carroll appeared as a late substitute against QPR and his 18-minute appearance was enough to convince England manager Roy Hodgson to also call the striker into his squad, although Allardyce has warned the on-loan Liverpool star is still short of match practice.
Collins, though, believes the presence of Carroll is enough to unsettle any defence, even if the striker is likely to once again be used from the substitutes’ bench
“He’s been great,” Collins said. “The first game he came in against Fulham at home he was superb and unfortunately got injured and to have him back for the later stages of the game on Monday gave us all a boost.
“He’s a handful. Obviously I’ve played against him before and I’m glad he’s on my team now.” -AFP
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