Monday, 8 October 2012

Beauty Slays The Beast As Arsenal Beat West Ham 3-1

Arsenal played away to West Ham on Saturday evening knowing that nothing less than a win was needed. West Ham had made a good start to life back in the Premier League and were above Arsenal in the table before the game.

Arsene Wenger made three changes from the side which beat Olympiacos 3-1 last Wednesday night.

Per Mertesacker returned in place of Laurent Koscielny at the heart of the defence to add some much needed height. Aaron Ramsey came in to the centre of midfield in place of Frances Coquelin for a rare start in the league this season. The final change was the inclusion of Olivier Giroud at centre forward with Gervinho moving to a wide role and and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain missing out.

Arsenal started very brightly and took the game to West Ham from the off. They were well on top and it seemed like only a matter of time before they scored the opening goal. In true Arsenal style though they found themselves 1-0 down when West Han scored with their first attempt on goal.

Ramsey was beaten too easily by Mohamed Diame and Mertesacker wasn't in place to cover him. Diame's shot was absolutely perfect and it left Vito Mannone with no chance as it nestled in the top corner if the net. It was a real blow for Arsenal to be behind after dominating the game for the first 21 minutes.

Arsenal found it hard to regain their rhythm and for a while things weren't looking good. Gradually they started playing their way back into the game and got their reward a few minutes before half time.

Giroud made a good run from the half way line and fed the ball to Lukas Podolski wide on the left. Podolski played a great ball across the six yard box and Giroud got ahead if the defence to put it into the net. It was a real goalscorers goal and it was just what Arsenal and Giroud needed.

Half time couldn't come quickly enough for West Ham, as Arsenal assumed complete control again.

The second half started off in the same manner with Arsenal dominating and West Ham looking to make an impression from long balls and set pieces. Andy Carroll was a constant threat to the Arsenal defenders when those long balls were launched, but they just about coped with him.

He took one opportunity to lead with his arm and catch Mannone in the face with the referee seeing nothing with the challenge. Phil Dowd also neglected his duties when he failed to send Diame off in the first half after a crude challenge on Mikael Arteta. He had already been booked for his goal celebration and his challenge on Arteta went unpunished.

As the second half wore on it didn't look like Arsenal were going to get an all important winning goal. Theo Walcott had come on for Gervinho after an hour and Andre Santos replaced the injured Kirean Gibbs five minutes earlier. Gervinho had a poor game but he had deserved his place in the team as Arsenal's leading scorer.

With 13 minutes left it was Arsenal who made the breakthrough and Walcott was the man to score the goal. Arsenal broke at pace and Giroud played an inch perfect pass for Walcott to run through and stroke the ball home. It was a very good finish and his fourth goal so far this season despite his limited opportunities.

Arsenal continued to play some very good football and they added to their lead six minutes later. Walcott lost control outside the box but he managed to get the ball to Santi Cazorla. The diminutive Spaniard finished with a fierce shot into the net from more than 20 yards out to make it 3-1 to Arsenal.

It was no more than they deserved after playing all of the good football on show. There were times when West Ham's direct style caused Arsenal a few problems at the back and on another day Kevin Nolan might well have scored a goal or two. He didn't take his chances though and Arsenal took advantage to win the game.

They ran the clock down in the last few minutes as West Ham tired. It's not easy for any team to play football without the ball, but that was what West Ham had to do. They spent a lot of the game chasing shadows as Arsenal passed their way around them.

It's a shame to see a team with such a great tradition of passing football revert to the tactics West Ham use. They have had some joy up to now, but they're certainly not pretty to watch. As long as Sam Allardyce is in charge they will play that style of football.

It can't be easy for their fans to support the team and cheer as they lump the ball aimlessly forward. With the players they have at the club it's probably the best way for them to survive in the Premier League though. In the long term hopefully they will return to the style which won them so many admirers in the past.

It was a very important win for Arsenal after the defeat to Chelsea last week. Anything other than a win would have left them very far off the pace at the top of the table after only seven games. 12 points from seven games is far from perfect, but it's a decent return from the games played for a team in transition.

Arsenal's away form bears comparison to any team in the league with eight points from four games. They need to sort out their home league form now and hopefully to do so will push them up the table. There's a long way to go this season but the signs are very promising.

The team showed real strength to come from behind and take all three points. After losing to Chelsea last week and going behind to West Ham it would have been easy for some players to go missing.

Arteta was excellent yet again as he worked tirelessly in the engine room of the team. Cazorla was the creative spark which the team needs and which was missing too often last season. Giroud showed why Arsenal bought him with an excellent performance up front, as well as helping to defend set pieces at the back.

The two full backs played very well yet again, as they showed how quickly they are learning while in the team. Bacary Sagna will be back from injury very soon, but he cannot be guaranteed his place if Carl Jenkinson continues to play so well. Gibbs has made the left back role his own and hopefully the knock he picked up will be overcome very soon.

Arsenal really seem to be playing more like a team than they have in a long time. The players are playing for the team and for each other too and that has to be a good thing. They have a lot of experience in the team and that helps to overcome adversity when they face it.

Unfortunately there's two weeks before Arsenal play again thanks to the dreaded international break. Hopefully the Arsenal players on international duty will all come back safe and sound.

Luckily for Arsenal they have a couple of Spanish players making a real impression for them at the moment. With the vast choice of top class players available to Spain at the moment there is no place for Arteta in their squad. Cazorla doesn't get a whole lot of playing time either and that has to be good for Arsenal too.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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