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Arsenal v West Ham: Paul Merson says Gunners must win to sustain top-four bid

Paul Merson - Paul Merson Posted 14th April 2014 view comments

Arsenal might have beaten Wigan on penalties but they won't be impressed with the way they played - definitely not; however, they did win and that's all that matters in the semi-final of an FA Cup.

I've been lucky enough to play in a few and it's all about reaching that final. It doesn't say on the Cup winners' medal at the end 'they were lucky to beat Championship opposition in the semi-final'. For me it was a big, big result given the way that they are playing but if they want to get into the top four they need to pick it up from here because if they play like they did on Saturday until the end of the season, they won't make that Champions League place.

Olivier Giroud: must start as one of two up front for Gunners, says Merse

Olivier Giroud: must start as one of two up front for Gunners, says Merse

The injuries haven't helped - the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott might not be world-class but they are massive for Arsenal - and without Theo they've so little pace in the team. Arsene Wenger has been playing the young kid Yaya Sanogo ahead of Olivier Giroud but he looks completely lost to me; he looks well out of depth. Giroud has to play in this one; Wenger might even change it this week and take one of the holding midfielders out and go two up front because West Ham are going to come and park the bus. They're not going to come and have a right go at Arsenal.

But Arsenal do have to have a right go and score early because if they don't the players' confidence is going to be shot and all of a sudden the fans are going to get restless and start getting on the players' backs; that will play into the hands of West Ham, who are good at defending deep.

Arsenal have been on an unbelievably bad run recently. When I looked at the fixtures I thought it would be a hard March but you'd expect them to get something out of certain games. For me it would be disastrous if they don't finish in the top four. But if they win the FA Cup and finish in the top four, it's been a massive season.

Arsenal have won the last six league games between these two and nothing other than a seventh will do because I reckon they have to win every game until the end of the season to get into the top four - including the FA Cup final rehearsal at Hull next Sunday.

I thought West Ham did alright against Liverpool even if they went down 2-1. They kept Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge quiet for a lot of the game. They can make life very difficult for you if you have to go and get a result because they've got out-and-out defenders at the back that want to defend and want to put their bodies on the line.

I think they've done great this season; they've stayed up easily so, for me, Sam Allardyce has done a real good job. I don't know if all the fans want him there but, for me, they are staying up and that's job done. Eleventh spot is a right result if you consider where they were. People were calling for Sam's head at one stage when it looked like they would be in a right relegation battle. But Sam has been in that position a lot of times and it all comes down to experience. A lot of the teams down the bottom now have inexperienced managers so fair play to West Ham for sticking by Sam.

Staying up is one part of the job - I think teams like West Ham also need a Cup run to make it a decent season, not least because it gives the fans something to shout for. Sam will recognise that Arsenal aren't playing well; he'll know they're not clicking and he'll go there and try to get his team to keep it very, very tight for the first 25 minutes. The crowd will then turn, players will perhaps get nervous and then West Ham will come into the game - and we all know that Andy Carroll is capable of giving the Arsenal defence problems.

But this is a game Arsenal have to win and I think they will.

PAUL PREDICTS: 2-0

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