A rather bizarre afternoon at the Emirates saw Arsenal inexplicably run out 4-1 winners against David Moyes’ West Ham side.
The match began with Arsenal all over the place before a late glut of goals papered over the widest of cracks. Most of the afternoon was like watching a bad Bergkamp, Henry, Pires cover band as Arsenal’s interplay on the edge of the area went awry time after time with passes with no zip.Embed from Getty Images
Having come off the back of a defeat to a possible next Arsenal manager and four days away from facing another Arsenal were their usual spring mix of neither intense or on the beach. Even the crowd didn’t seem too bothered about proceedings with a few empty seats and ripples of applause usually more suited to the World Snooker at the Crucible.
West Ham continue their limp over the relegation finish line and their early tactic was reminiscent of an under 12s game where the ball is launched at the fastest player on the pitch to run on to, and in those early moments Arnautovic was running Koscielny and Mustafi ragged as first he delayed too long to shoot before then being too obvious with his body shape allowing Ospina to save.
Arsenal played the game at such a slow pace and only created half chances as Koscielny headed wide at a corner and Bellerin swept miles over the bar from a promising position. Xhaka come close with a free kick and the first half ended without much of anything to report apart from Elneny being carried off which will worry Wenger with Atletico Madrid to play on Thursday.
It was with Atletico in mind that Arsenal started without Cech, Wilshere, Ozil and Aubameyang. The lack of those players certainly contributed to the lack of attacking threat. Alex Iwobi adequately covered the absence of both Ozil and Mkhitaryan in the sense that he was as frustrating as both playmakers combined this afternoon.
The second half started with a bang though as Pablo Zabaleta wiped out Welbeck with a tackle so reckless he was lucky to stay on the pitch, that free kick led to an Arsenal corner which Xhaka pulled back to Nacho Monreal who shinned in a volley for his sixth goal of the season. The volley crept in the near post where Masuaku decided to step away from the ball as it went past him rather than making a simple block.
However the goal didn’t calm Arsenal down at all and ten minutes later a spectacular Ospina punch found its way to Lanzini who filtered the ball to Arnautovic on the left edge of the area and the Austrian lashed a ball into the corner of the net.Embed from Getty Images
Joe Hart then tipped away a Xhaka shot before making an even more spectacular save from Welbeck. Just as the “Hart for England” t-shirts were being printed the goalkeeper was involved in a mix up with Declan Rice as the young full back ducked under a Ramsey cross that evaded everyone and drifted into the back corner of the goal, with the pressure lifted Arsenal’s passing on the edge of the area clicked as Welbeck and Aubameyang set up Lacazette to drive in at the near post before Ramsey’s cute cut back allowed Lacazette to open his body up and shimmy into a shooting position and beat Hart from close range.
So a rather flattering scoreline on another tepid Arsenal display but this weekend isn’t the time to criticise Arsenal or their manager – nobody ever criticised their granddad at his own funeral – and maybe the memory to take is not the performance today but the wonderful stadium in the sunshine covered in the banners about the Invicibles, the real legacy of the Wenger era.Embed from Getty Images
Ospina; Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal; Elneny (Maitland Niles 45) Xhaka; Iwobi (Aubameyang 70), Ramsey, Welbeck (Chambers 88); Lacazette
West Ham United: 3421
Hart; Rice, Ogbanna, Cresswell; Zabaleta, Noble, Kouyate, Masuaku (Carroll 86); Mario (Hernandez 60), Fernandes (Lanzini 60); Arnautovic
Arsenal 4 (Monreal 51, Ramsey 82, Lacazette 85, 89) West Ham 1 (Arnautovic 64)
Man of the Match:
Granit Xhaka. Honourable mention to Arnautovic who had the Arsenal centre backs on toast and a manager as streetwise and pragmatic as Diego Simeone will have certainly noticed that and Greizmann could have a field day in the semi final.
Ramsey and Lacazette deserve a mention for putting West Ham away in the last ten minutes but were largely non existent prior to that. Xhaka on the other hand controlled the game from his deep midfield position and his set pieces were accurate today rather than wild, a probing, disciplined performance that finally made us see what Wenger saw in him two summers ago.
Written by Gary Robinson.
32 from Manchester. Working in the business banking sector, lover of the game and all its weird narratives. Writer for 90MAAT. @ismyCAPplaying