Result: West Ham 3 – 3 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 21 March 2021
Venue: London Stadium
Arsenal: Leno, Chambers, Luiz, Mari, Tierney, Xhaka, Partey, Odegaard, Saka, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Subs: Ryan, Cedric, Holding, Gabriel, Elneny, Ceballos, Smith Rowe, Pepe, Martinelli
Arsenal came back from three goals down to claw back a draw at the London Stadium. The Gunners were punished for a sluggish start that saw them concede three goals within the first half. They scored a consolation goal within the half to go into half time with some breathing space.
The Gunners went full pelt for goals in the second half and were awarded with a West Ham own goal and a header by Lacazette to draw the game. Despite the dramatic comeback to tie the game, Arsenal should have counted themselves lucky as the home side could have scored at least two more goals to have the result out of sight.
Chambers made another start at right back to add physical presence to that back line while Mari also returned to the line up. Arsenal started with the first choice midfield trio of Partey, Xhaka and Odegaard. Surprisingly, Saka took up a spot on the left wing while Aubameyang was shunted to the right to accommodate Lacazette up top.
Arteta’s decision with his back line selection hinted that he was worried about West Ham’s physicality. His fears came through as the home side dominated during the opening minutes with an aggressive and direct approach. They put Arsenal under pressure with diagonal balls and teasing crosses. The Gunners held firm by staying compact and organised but couldn’t find a way to keep the ball for long when they came into possession.
West Ham’s dominance almost bore fruit on the 8th minute with Soucek ghosting into the box and rose above the Arsenal defence to head just wide off the goal – a warning shot to Arsenal who were struggling to keep possession.
Arsenal didn’t heed the warning signs and were made to pay by conceding two quick fire goals. The first, was a well-hit half volley by Lingard from the outside of the box which flew into the top corner. 1-0 West Ham.
Just minutes later, Arsenal were caught on their heels as Lingard took a quick free kick to free Bowen down the right. Bowen had acres of space as he slotted the ball past Leno’s near post. The goal was representative of the entire team’s malaise as everyone was slow to react – from the outfield plyers getting caught out to poor goalkeeping by Leno. Really horrible stuff by the Gunners. 2-0 West Ham.
It got from bad to worse ten minutes later as Arsenal were punished again for their tepid play. West Ham won the ball quickly in Arsenal’s half and crossed for Antonio. The forward jumped high and beat David Luiz to power a header past Leno. 3-0 West Ham.
The sight of that scoreline must have shook Arsenal into finally waking up as they immediately responded and pulled a goal back. Chambers teased in a cross from the right which was expertly controlled by Lacazette. The Frenchman swivelled and hit a wicked shot on goal to keep Arsenal in the game. Replays later showed that it was a Soucek own goal as the ball deflected off him as he looked to block Lacazette’s effort. 3-1 Arsenal.
Saka had two more chances towards the end of the half with a disappointing shot right at Fabianski and a deflected effort in a crowded West Ham box displaying some semblance of fighting spirit by Arsenal. The Gunners were down but not out though they have made it really tough for themselves with their sluggish start.
After what we can assume was a tongue-lashing by Arteta in the dressing room, Arsenal started with renewed urgency and could have halved the deficit within a minute. It was Chambers again who created a chance for Lacazette. The defender moved into the middle of the pitch and floated in a pass for Lacazette who evaded his defenders. He lobbed the ball over Fabianski but Diop was able to clear the ball off the line.
As Arsenal cranked up the pressure, it was Chambers again who was creator in chief with a cutback whipped in with pace. Any touch by an onrushing defender would have resulted in an own goal and it was Craig Dawson who made contact to inadvertently score for Arsenal. 3-2 Arsenal.
The game remained open as West Ham almost hit back with a double effort by Bowen who was kept out by Tierney’s last ditch defending. By this point, West Ham started crafting more chances on the counter. Chambers had to come to the rescue during a penalty box scramble and West Ham were unlucky not to add another goal when Antonio could only turn a low cross against the post.
Arsenal soon found their groove by the 81st minute. Lacazette, so industrious all game, was finally rewarded with a headed goal after converting an accurate cross from Pepe. 3-3 Arsenal.
The insane nature of the game saw two good chances for Pepe saved by Fabianski and a great save by Leno to deny Rice who made a scintillating run from deep into the edge of Arsenal’s penalty box.
Eventually, both teams had to settle for a draw in what was a frenetic game that displayed Arsenal’s inconsistencies that has plagued them all season.