Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
LONDON, England - Currently nested in sixth place on 34 points, Arsenal host West Ham in a Boxing Day replay on Wednesday with a chance to move within a point of fifth-place Everton. But they've also got the opportunity to fall 10 points off the pace for the fourth and final Champions League spot.
Arsenal's form this season has been spotty to say the least. Wins over teams in the bottom half of the table have been fairly easy to come by, but they've yet to claim a big scalp this year (outside of a win over a Spurs side who were up by two and dominating prior to an early Emanuel Adebayor red card).
Gunners fans have been waiting for the annual Wenger-led run that saw them climb 14 points out of obscurity last season to overtake rivals Tottenham for third place. But as the league clock ticks on, Arsenal have yet to begin anything that resembles the same kind of streak.
Two losses and a draw in their last three have put Arsenal in a desperate search for a win on Wednesday.
"The position we are in now is a bit 'backs to the wall' because we have to respond," said Arsene Wenger.
And the Gunners will need a solid response today against a West Ham side that's been anything but easy pickings.
"We had our best performance of the season on Saturday," said Hammers coach "Big" Sam Allardyce. "A huge completion of an outlying domination of one team"
True to typical Allardyce form, West Ham has followed a doctrine of dogged determination and structure to work down the opposition this season. Allardyce said his Hammers will have stick to that formula if they're to escape the Emirates with a of a point or three.
"We've got to try and frustrate them in terms of not letting them get into that nice free-flowing football that they like to play," Allardyce said on the West Ham website. "So if that frustrates them, and the crowd, we've got a chance. We'll get a chance to get at their defence and a chance to score against them."
If West Ham can indeed frustrate and see off Arsenal, the Gunners' dreams of Champions League football could burst among the sea of bubbles blowing forth from the joyous Hammers traveling fans.