Slaven Bilic is not focused on avenging Arsenal loss, just stopping West Ham’s poor run!
PUBLISHED: 19:00 04 April 2017
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The Hammers will have Michail Antonio fit for tomorrow’s match and Diafra Sakho could be on the bench
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic is not looking for his team to get revenge over Arsenal tomorrow, but has seen some chinks in the Gunners armour to give him hope ahead of the London derby.
The Hammers make the short trip to the Emirates aiming to halt a run of four consecutive defeats, which has seen them slide to 14th.
Arsenal are in a poor spell of form themselves having tasted success just once in their last six Premier League outings, but they did thrash West Ham 5-1 at the London Stadium in December.
So is Bilic targeting revenge? “No, but we are looking to get something out of the game,” he said. “First we have to be solid and organised and concentrated. We can’t expect to have more possession than them even if we would love it, but we need to be good in defence as a team.
“We need to close the gaps in between (Alexis) Sanchez and (Mesut) Ozil and then try to mark them two against one. When the ball goes to those players they can end up hurting any team individually if they are isolated on a one-v-one or not marked.
“Then when we get the ball we have to try and use the space and try to keep the ball to frustrate Arsenal and if we are brave and confident then of course we have a chance against any team in this league.”
Bilic is only too aware of what happens when Sanchez and Ozil are given too much time on the ball as the duo were at the heart of the Gunners 5-1 win at West Ham towards the end of 2016.
The Chilean international netted a hat-trick, while German Ozil opened the scoring as Andy Carroll’s 83rd-minute effort proved a mere consolation for the Hammers.
West Ham’s big number nine always seems to enjoy playing against Arsenal, though, and Bilic is expecting another big performance from the England striker.
He added: “Andy is a threat in every game he plays because he also had a really good match against Hull City on Saturday.
“Of course he is important for us and if we talk about Arsenal then we remember last season’s game at Upton Park when he scored a hat-trick and was basically brilliant.
“We are expecting a lot from Andy and he is fit and ready to play three games in one week. He is in great shape and is focused and motivated and he should be a big asset for us at Arsenal.”
Carroll may be fit to start at the Emirates and be available for this Saturday’s home match with Swansea City, but left-back Aaron Cresswell is not.
The 27-year-old was forced off during the 2-1 defeat at Hull, but Bilic has Michail Antonio fit again and Diafra Sakho is pushing for a return and may be on the bench tomorrow.
“Cresswell is out, but it should only be for this week, we are talking about a couple games. He will miss the matches with Arsenal and Swansea, but should be training next week and available for Sunderland (April 15),” said Bilic.
“Mikey is back which is of course great news for us. He will definitely be involved and it is a big boost because we are talking about one of our best players.
“Diafra is available and when you talk to him, he is ready and can’t wait, but it is not like he has been out with a hamstring injury. He may be on the bench at Arsenal, but I haven’t decided yet because of the length of his absence.”