Result: Arsenal 1 – 0 West Ham
Competition: Premier League
Date: 7 March 2020
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Leno, Sokratis, Luiz, Mari, Saka, Xhaka, Ceballos, Ozil, Pepe, Nketiah, Aubameyang
Subs: Martinez, Bellerin, Guendouzi, Willock, Nelson, Martinelli, Lacazette
Arsenal won at home against West Ham 1-0 despite conceding numerous chances and struggling to create opportunities of their own. Substitute Lacazette scored from a tap-in on the 77th minute but not before a lengthy VAR examination to rule out an initial wrongful decision for offside.
The win put Arsenal one step closer towards a European place but the Gunners would need to put in much better performances through the rest of the season to attain their goal.
The defence was left unchanged from the FA Cup win over Portsmouth which meant that Pablo Mari started his first Premier League match while Sokratis retained his place at right back. The midfield and forward lines, however, were heavily rotated with only Nketiah keeping his spot in the line-up.
Arsenal’s central players’ technical ability on the ball looked excellent on paper and it was with this confidence that they decided to casually pass from defence to midfield upon kick off.
So assured they were in their talents that there was a hint of over-confidence and it was proven when Xhaka switched off to give the ball away after 90 seconds to Bowen whose shot against the upright sounded a warning to the team. They had to add some urgency to their play.
Arsenal continued to control possession with little penetration and it was West Ham who had the next big chance. The Gunners were caught high up and Mari mistimed his tackle. West Ham put the pacey Antonio through in a 2 v 1 situation against Luiz but the winger’s cut back went behind Haller and Luiz. Arsenal were let off easy for their mistake.
Arsenal responded a minute later with a shot by Ozil in the box which was cleared by Cresswell, created from a well taken cross from the left hand side.
Leno had to be quick off his line just minutes later when Nketiah was dispossessed in the centre circle, catching the defence off guard and had Haller running through on goal. The German keeper’s timing was impeccable in snuffing out the danger before the French striker could put the ball into the net.
In a game where chances continue to flow, it was Sokratis’ turn next to force a goal. An Arsenal corner was not cleared and Aubameyang calmly chipped the ball into the penalty spot area for the Greek defender to crash his powerful header against the bar.
The first half ended 0-0 and Arsenal’s lack of speed in attack and lack of penetration through the middle really showed. Ozil constantly floated to the right wing to combine with Pepe due to Sokratis’ conservative position and there was hardly any combination play through the middle.
A change of tactics definitely should clearly be on Arteta’s agenda for the latter half.
My talents as a clairvoyant were clearly in question as there was hardly any tactical changes at the start of the half but the players definitely played with more energy and urgency in possession – even resorting to the occasional long pass to catch West Ham off guard.
That very energy was embodied by Saka who took on at least two defenders on a mazy run and set up Nketiah for goal. Unfortunately, ex-Gunner Fabianski was quick off his line to block Nketiah’s shot away from goal.
West Ham was not to be deterred. Cresswell’s cross should have been blocked but he managed to find Haller who flicked on for an unguarded Antonio. The winger’s header was on target but was thwarted by Leno’s strong palm.
Despite a positive 15 minutes by Nketiah where he was on the end of a couple of half chances, Arteta decided to rely on experience as the youngster made way for Lacazette. The substitution didn’t have the desired effect as Arsenal still couldn’t keep possession nor create more chances which led to Arteta taking off Pepe for Nelson 10 minutes later.
Arsenal finally made the breakthrough on the 77th minute but not before VAR took ages to assess a possible offside despite it looking obvious that the players were onside. Aubameyang attempted a shot from the outside of the box but it was deflected onto the path of Ozil who was a mere few centimetres behind the last line of West Ham’s defence. The playmaker shifted the ball sideways with a deft header and Lacazette had the easy job of tapping in to an open goal. 1-0 Arsenal.
The drama wasn’t over as Arsenal conspired to give fans a heart attack. Saka got drawn into midfield and exposed his side to a free run by Ngakia. The West Ham player’s dangerous low cross almost reached Haller’s feet if not for David Luiz’s quick wits to cover the striker.
The game continued to be open but Arsenal managed to see out the match to keep the result intact at 1-0. It wasn’t a well-deserved win considering how ponderous we were defensively and in possession but a much needed three points was welcome as this game proved that Arteta has some ways to go to get Arsenal back as a top 4 team.