Robson warns of hot reception for Gunners at Upton Park

MATCH PREVIEW: West Ham v Arsenal Premier League Sunday Upton Park, Kick-off 4pm Former Arsenal and West Ham midfielder Stewart Robson has warned the Gunners to prepare for a hot reception at Upton Park on Sunday afternoon. Arsene Wenger s side travel t

MATCH PREVIEW: West Ham v Arsenal

Premier League


Upton Park, Kick-off 4pm

Former Arsenal and West Ham midfielder Stewart Robson has warned the Gunners to prepare for a hot reception at Upton Park on Sunday afternoon.

Arsene Wenger's side travel to east London with a record of just one win in their previous five matches in E13, and with the hosts in desperate need of three points to take the pressure off new manager Gianfranco Zola.

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Robson expects a rough ride.

"West Ham's is a funny old crowd," the 43-year-old told Ham&High Sport.

"It's a club that has yo-yoed between the top flight and the old second division.

"But the expectation level among the fans is huge when they take on the big clubs, in particular Arsenal.

"They have a very good home record against Arsenal - and also Manchester United - and whenever they beat a big club the supporters are prepared to forgive the players for the mediocre stuff.

"Arsenal know just how tough it can be to get three points there."

Robson was one of Arsenal's brightest young talents when he broke into the side in the mid-1980s, but he soon found himself out of favour at Highbury under George Graham and signed for West Ham in January 1987 for £650,000.

By the end of that first full year he was named player of the year - and he says there is no better place to play when everything is going well.

"I don't know where the West Ham fans get that passion from, but it is almost unrivalled in London," said the Billericay-born Robson.

"When the side is playing well and winning matches, it is a fantastic crowd to play for. They really get on your side.

"But, individually, if they aren't keen on a player they can really turn on him. It's strange."

Sunday's game represents a big test for the Gunners after they got their season back on track on Saturday with a 3-1 home win over Everton. Wenger admitted a second successive home loss, after their shock 1-2 reverse to Hull City, could have spelt curtains for Arsenal's title hopes.

"We want to stay in the race for the title," he said. "But we had lost against Hull in our last game here and you cannot drop points at home straight away after that.

"If we had lost here we would have been seven points behind the leaders. That's too many.

"You don't want your team to lose confidence and, after the shock against Hull, not to win on Saturday would have been difficult for the confidence of the team.

"It would not have been all over, no. But you give yourself a big mountain to climb if you are seven points behind Chelsea."

Robson agrees that Chelsea are the side to be beat, but that Arsenal have the qualities needed to stay the distance.

"I watched Chelsea's 5-0 win at Middlesbrough last weekend and they were truly outstanding," he said. "They had several players out but were strong, scoring lots of goals and keeping a clean sheet. They, for me, are the side everyone is chasing.

"But Arsenal also impressed me at the weekend because they showed they could win a tough game with several key players out like William Gallas, Bacary Sagna and, during the game, Kolo Toure.

"Arsenal may have already lost twice this season but I don't think that is a problem. I'd rather Arsenal won 10 and lost a couple of games than keep drawing - going on a long unbeaten run would be nice but is isn't essential. And the one thing Arsenal have done very well this season, the 1-0 defeat at Fulham in August aside, is fight back after conceding a goal.

"Every member of the squad knows if they go a goal down they are always, without exception, capable of scoring. That is one of the major things Wenger has changed in his time at the club - the culture of attacking and scoring plenty of goals.

"I remember in the latter stage of my career I played at Coventry and if we went a goal down we pretty much accepted we wouldn't get back into the game as we could not score enough goals - that is not a problem with Arsenal."

Robson also believes the young side squad at Emirates is evolving and improving with each passing season.

"I have watched Arsenal very closely and they are doing a lot of good things," he adds. "I like the way they can play long now with Emmanuel Adebayor up front. People do not realise how they can play long passes to good effect.

"West Ham will play a narrow midfield against us, trying to deny us space in the middle. Arsenal must play the ball quickly, switching the play and penetrating the Hammers' defence.

"If they play like they can, Arsenal can get that win - and silence those West Ham fans."

Stewart Robson is the regular guest pundit on Arsenal TV, Sky Channel 435.