Arsenal under Unai Emery finally got some reward as they edged past a dogged West Ham at the Emirates in a helter skleter game low on genuine quality but high on entertainment due to some shoddy defending.
The hosts made one change with Aaron Ramsey replacing Mesut Ozil, reportedly due to a mid-week row with Emery, who is rapidly becoming a Rooney under Moyes burden on Arsenal. The visitors made four changes as Diop, Fredericks, Sanchez and Antonio came into the side as Manuel Pellegrini searches for a coherent strategy.
The game started as expected with Arsenal showing they are getting to grips with Emery’s style with some crisp passing which the West Ham midfield were reduced to watching and chasing their tails, fortunately for Pellegrini’s side the final ball was often not up to scratch.
Petr Cech provided a few nervy moments in playing out from the back but seems a lot more confident than he did a fortnight ago, a clear sign that Emery will not be dissuaded from playing his style not matter how many English pundits criticise him. The tactic was a tad predictable and allowed West Ham to press high but in the long term it should allow Arsenal to dominate the ball and get their attacking players on the front foot and take the pressure of their defence who as it stands look slightly out of their depth.
Slowly though West Ham gained a foothold in the game, and like Chelsea last week, they did so by attacking the full backs. Both Monreal and Bellerin look a touch off the pace so far this season. Felipe Anderson and Arnautovic had already threatened to combine a few times before finally playing a crisp one two allowing the Austrian who is fast becoming the West Ham talisman to drill in from the edge of the area.
Arsenal were behind for the third match in a row but again showed some grit and resilience and fought back and it was the two struggling full backs who redeemed themselves by combining for the equaliser. Bellerin was slid in by Mkhitaryan and his cross eventually found it’s way to Monreal who slotted past Fabianski and his fellow defenders.
The rest of the half was played a breakneck end to end speed as Emery’s side laid down further proof they could be the side to watch this season. A combination of dizzying passing and shambolic defending by Arsenal meant chances were frittered by both sides as Anderson, Snodgrass, Arnautovic and Aubameyang went close. Ramsey and Arnautovic also traded offside goals in a half that could have ended three apiece.
Emery replaced the lacklustre Iwobi with Lacazette and moved Aubameyang out to the left, a combination which surely would provide more threat than Arsenal have mustered in their first two games. The two combined early in the second half but the substitutes shot was too close to Fabianski. Arnautovic had already rushed a shot as the second half continued as the first did.
The introduction of Torreria for Guendouzi saw a bit more composure on the ball for Arsenal but in the main the game lacked a clear pattern as defensive chaos ensued. There is a reason West Ham have conceded the most Premier League goals since the start of last season and Pellegrini hadn’t found a way to combat it yet as Fabianski was forced into ten saves but he was powerless to stop the decisive goal as Lacazette hooked a ball onto Aubameyang who was stopped scoring by the unfortunate Diop who chested the ball into his own goal. Danny Welbeck slammed a late shot into the roof of the net as Arsenal added an unfair gloss on the score.
West Ham were unlucky to lose after a spirted first hour and the sublime Felipe Anderson nearly conjured up an equaliser late on. Anderson a rare example of the best player on the pitch even in a losing effort. If he can continue his sparkling performances and chemistry with Arnautovic West Ham can easily rise from this early season slumber. Matches against Wolves, Everton and Chelsea now follow and Pellegrini needs his defence to step up or Anderson and Arnautovic could need four a game to stave off a relegation battle and their volatile employees.
Arsenal move on to a great run of games travelling to Cardiff next and with only one match against a fellow top six side before December Emery could really start to stamp his methods on this team, this was a start with patches of brilliance but the suspicion remains, that as with West Ham both sides are a quality defence away from any meaningful success this season.