Arsenal: Ospina, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey, Walcott, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud
Subs: Szczesny, Gibbs, Bellerin, Flamini, Cazorla, Welbeck, Akpom
A first half-pile driver from Olivier Giroud and late goals from Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini saw Arsenal win their 5th Premier League game in a row as they beat West Ham 3-0 at the Emirates this afternoon.
There were changes from the team which beat Man Utd at Old Trafford on Monday with recalls for David Ospina, Aaron Ramsey, Calum Chambers, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott – starting his first game since the 2-1 win over Leicester on February 10th.
The England man had a glorious chance to mark his comeback with a goal after a brilliant 5th minute move. Arsenal played the ball down the right, worked it back inside, Mesut Ozil played it into Olivier Giroud who flicked it into the path of Walcott who, from 6 yards out, delayed and allowed himself to be tackled when he really should have scored.
Despite his dallying though, replays showed that Collins didn’t get near the ball ball and, by the letter, it should have been a penalty and a red card for the West Ham man.
The visitors seemed happy to sit deep and force Arsenal narrow as they looked to get on top of the game. A Calum Chambers cross saw Alexis Sanchez force a save from Adrian with a header towards the bottom corner, while at the other end Francis Coquelin had to be at his best to snuff out a dangerous Sakho break.
Mesut Ozil’s fizzing free kick in the 19th minute required solid defending from the Hammers, but there were warning signs at the other end. West Ham got down the left hand side, the ball was pulled back to Kevin Nolan on the edge the box and his first time volley was saved by David Ospina.
Giroud pulled a 23rd minute shot wide from a tight angle, before Aaron Ramsey almost opened the scoring with an improvised effort from inside the box. Chambers cross arrived to him, it was too low for a header, too high for a volley, so he looped the ball towards goal with his thigh only to see Adrian tip it away from underneath the bar.
The Welshman then turned provider, making a great chance for Walcott. Ramsey played him down the inside right channel, the run was great, but the winger took a touch and side-footed it with little power making it easy for Adrian.
Ramsey then set up Alexis whose volley to the near post was saved by the Hammers keeper, before the Chilean picked up a yellow card for handball in the area. Sakho again proved dangerous on the break until Mertesacker and Koscielny sorted him out, and just before half-time Walcott fluffed another opportunity to open the scoring.
He did well to keep the ball alive down the right, played it inside, it came to Ozil whose shot was saved, but rebounded to the England who skewed the ball wide with the goal at his mercy.
As the half looked like it would end scoreless, the Gunners took the lead in injury time. Some beautiful interplay between Ozil and Giroud saw it laid off to Ramsey in the area, Giroud took it off his toe, stepped inside and lashed the ball off the far post and into the net to make it 1-0 at the break, and deservedly so for Arsenal who had made chance, just not taken them.
There were no changes for either side as the second half began, although there was a moment of danger when David Ospina spilled a cross at the near post under pressure from Sakho. He required some goalkeeping but it wasn’t altogether convincing as he’d spilled the ball before contact.
West Ham put us under some pressure in the early stages of the second period, with Mertesacker blocking a shot and Arsenal failing to get control of the ball for any sustained spell.
One fantastic break from the Gunners deserved better from the final ball, before Matt Jarvis fired over from 12 yards after a West Ham corner.
We then had the unusual sight of a refereeing change as an injured Chris Foy was replaced Anthony Taylor with fans singing “You’re not fit to referee”.
That was followed up by an Arsenal change as Danny Welbeck replaced Alexis. There was some indecision in the Arsenal attack after lovely play down the left. Ozil involved as we played the ball into the middle, it came back to the German who chose to cross to Waclott rather than shoot himself and Ramsey’s shot bobbled wide.
With the visitors pressing, there was space for Arsenal to exploit but the final ball was lacking when Welbeck tried to feed Walcott allowing Allardyce’s side to clear. It was Theo’s last involvement as he was then replaced by by Santi Cazorla in the 72nd minute.
As the game got a bit tetchy, Ramsey was denied a clear chance by a great Collins tackle, but seconds later he made it 2-0. Arsenal had a throw down the right, Giroud dummied it, and Ramsey played a one-two with the Frenchman before lashing the ball home to make it 2-0.
Arsene Wenger then replaced Ozil with Mathieu Flamini to shut up shop but the Frenchman’s first touch was a goal. Again beautiful interplay between Giroud and Cazorla saw the Spaniard cross to the back post and Flamini was there for a tap-in with his first touch. 3-0.
It was enough for Arsenal to see the game out and move to within a point of Man City who play later this evening.
A solid win sets up an interesting trip to Monaco on Tuesday, where a similar scoreline would see us go through.
Come on unfounded optimism!