Result: West Ham 1–2 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 1 May 2022
Venue: London Stadium
Arsenal: Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, Holding, Gabriel, Tavares, Xhaka, Elneny, Odegaard, Martinelli, Saka, Nketiah
Subs: Leno, Cedric, Kirk, Swanson, Lokonga, Oulad M’Hand, Smith Rowe, Pepe, Lacazette
A pair of headers by centre-back duo Rob Holding and Gabriel earned Arsenal a 2-1 win over West Ham that keeps Mikel Arteta’s side in the driving seat in the race for fourth spot.
Despite being pegged back by Jarrod Bowen’s strike just before half time, the Gunners produced a mature performance that sees us restore our two point advantage over Sp*rs going into the final four games.
Mikel Arteta made three changes from the side that started against Manchester United. A tight hamstring ruled out Ben White meaning Rob Holding partnered Gabriel. At right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu replaced Cedric Soares – his first start since January – and Gabriel Martinelli took over from Emile Smith Rowe. The bench included Nicolas Pepe, Alex Lacazette and an assortment of kids without any experience.
Perhaps wary of what happened the last time out at London Stadium, Arsenal started with real caution. We had plenty of the ball but we didn’t commit men forward and with West Ham showing little attacking impetus of their own, it was a very turgid first thirty minutes.
Saka had our first attempt at goal on 15 minutes – a shot blocked at close quarters – and at the other end, Holding blocked a header with his arm that VAR ruled fine, despite contact with his arm.
The centre-back was on hand again a few moments later, making a superb block from a Lanzini shot after we’d found ourselves outnumbered at the back. Soon after, Rice had the first effort on target but Ramsdale made light work of the England international’s curler.
That seemed to spark life into the game and when Nketiak found himself in a similar position at the other end, his own curler forced Fabianski into a fine save down low to his left. From the resulting corner, Saka found Holding in the six-yard box and the defender headed home off the post for his first ever Premier League goal. (0-1)
The Hammers were quick to fight back. A manic four minutes saw Ramsdale forced into a fine stop to deny Rice’s header but the reprieve was only temporary. A minute before the break, Coufal delivered a cross into the box, it came to Bowen who had too much space and time, and his shot deflected off Gabriel’s arse and in. (1-1)
Holding continued to be at the centre of the action, denying Benrahma with another block as the Hammers came out of the blocks quickly. The next scare came six minutes later as Bowen raced to collect a long ball and appeared to be taken out by the onrushing Ramsdale outside the box. Mike Dean weighed up his options and produced a yellow card for the winger for diving. Replays showed it was the correct decision.
Back came the Gunners. Saka cut inside and drilled low at Fabianski’s near post but the Pole got down well. For a second time, we made the resulting corner count.
Although the initial cross was headed away to the back post, Martinelli collected the loose ball, picked out compatriot and namesake Gabriel and the defender, unmarked, headed home at the near post. (1-2)
We continued to press in search of a third as the hour mark approached. Martinelli fired over from range and Nketiah pinged an effort straight at Fabianski. On the counter attack, the striker had two further chances to put the game to bed. He stung the Pole’s palms with a first effort and then came agonisingly close with a curler that just went wide.
West Ham had already sent on Antonio for Lanzini by this point and with 14 minutes remaining Moyes then sent on Soucek to double down on a far more physical encounter. It coincided with Tomiyasu picking up another calf problem and the Japan international was taken off to be replaced by Cedric. He looked dejected.
Nketiah’s personal duel with Fabianski continued. This time the striker bent a low effort that the ex-Gunner did well to parry around the post.
At every opportunity we looked to wind down the clock, taking an age over goal kicks and corners and hitting the turf for medical attention. Saka took one kick too many and was replaced by Smith Rowe with three minutes left.
Nketiah’s own attempts to slow things down saw him booked and sparked angry exchanges with Cresswell and Rice. It was clever because the clock continued to tick down.
In the closing stage, the atmosphere on edge as the home crowd urged their players forward, we sat deep, defended the box in numbers and looked relatively comfortable. The Hammers ran out of puff, the three points were ours. A huge win.