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Arsenal top the Premier League (PL) table at Christmas for the first time since 2007/08 after a dream start to the season prior to the World Cup (W12, D1, L1). Interestingly though, they haven’t won the title in any of the last five seasons they were leading the way on Christmas Day so manager Mikel Arteta won’t have his side resting on any laurels just yet.
Although the Gunners have won all six of their home games in the league this term, scoring an average of 3.17 goals per fixture, Arteta has called for them to “raise the standards” following a warm-weather training camp in which they finished by beating AC Milan 2-1. A 2-0 friendly defeat at home to Juventus followed that game and just one PL clean sheet at the Emirates Stadium this term is cause for concern, as is a growing injury list which includes forward Gabriel Jesus.
West Ham United slumped into the break on the back of three consecutive league defeats but are optimistic that decent mid-season friendly results can translate to moving out of the bottom half of the table. “We’ll be ready and fired up,” warned first-team coach Billy McKinley as they prepare for a H2H they haven’t won at any stadium since January 2019 (D1, L5).
As the Hammers have suffered seven straight H2H defeats at this venue, this is a challenging proposition for manager David Moyes’ side as they strive to secure European football for a third consecutive season. They might feel hard done by as all five league away defeats this term (W1, D1) came via one-goal margins, but they must improve on the road if they’re to rise up the table.
Key battle: Bukayo Saka had a brilliant World Cup, netting three times for England before they fell at the quarter-final stage. He’ll be looking to get on the scoresheet against West Ham’s Łukasz Fabiański, who was part of the Arsenal squad that topped the table at Christmas in 2007, before ultimately finishing third.
Hot streak: Arsenal won both previous H2Hs held on Boxing Day, 1-0 in 1998 and 3-1 in 2013.