Result: West Ham United 2 – 2 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 16 April 2023
Venue: The London Stadium
Arsenal: Ramsdale, White, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney, Partey, Xhaka, Odegaard, Saka, Martinelli, Jesus
Subs: Turner, Walters, Kiwior, Jorginho, Smith Rowe, Vieira, Nelson, Trossard, Nketiah
Arsenal lost a two goal lead at The London Stadium, drawing 2-2 for a consecutive game. Like their last match, Arsenal comfortably strolled to score two early goals in the first half with Jesus and Odegaard making their mark.
They allowed West Ham to make their way back via a penalty in the first half and a goal 15 minutes into the second half. What made matters worse was a missed penalty by Saka that could have made it 3-1. Instead, the game ended 2-2 with the Gunners shortening their lead at the top.
Arsenal kept an almost unchanged side from their last game against Liverpool. The front three and midfield trio picked itself.
The only big change was Tierney coming in for Zinchenko on the left side of defence.
Arsenal had to claw back the points on Manchester City but with Holding and Tierney stepping in at the back, they had to be patient as they were not as technically proficient as their incumbents.
Tierney tucked in to midfield ala Zinchenko but was nowhere near as enterprising. The team took their time to link their passes but always made sure they kept possession safely.
Once the action moved to the final third, Arsenal’s technicians switched up the tempo to turn the screw. And turn, they did.
It took the away side 10 minutes to score the first 2 goals and silence the West Ham home crowd. The first was borne out of some lovely interplay on the right between Saka, Partey and Odegaard. The captain then spotted Ben White overlapping and played him through. The defender squared the ball for Jesus to make a simple tap in at the far post. 0-1 Arsenal
It took only 3 minutes for the Gunners to double their lead. Martinelli scooped a pass to the far post for Odegaard to ghost in unguarded and guide the ball into the net. 0-2 Arsenal
Arsenal slowed down the tempo and kept the ball well. West Ham were flat and so was the crowd. Perhaps it was complacency, or overconfidence. Partey received the ball under pressure just outside the box and looked to chip Rice with a flick on. However, Rice intercepted the ball and fed in Paqueta quickly. Gabriel mistimed his tackle on his compatriot and the referee called for a penalty. Benrahma did not miss from the spot. 1-2 West Ham
The home side had the wind in their sails after the goal. They took a couple of half chances and raised the noise level in the stadium.
In such moments of pressure, Gabriel Jesus’ quality and experience showed. Noticing that his team was struggling to keep possession, he dropped into centre midfield to offer an extra passing option so that his teammates could regain possession and some composure.
He took the sting out of the game and even took a yellow card in injury time, disrupting a West Ham counter to allow Arsenal to enter the break calmly with a lead intact.
A cagey opening to the second half was soon punctuated by some key moments on both ends of the field. Five minutes in, a Martinelli volley in the box was blocked by Antonio’s arm and Arsenal were given a chance to double their lead. Unfortunately, Saka, who has been quiet all day, slashed his effort wide.
West Ham hit back just minutes later. A long throw was headed out by Gabriel as the Arsenal backline moved up to catch West Ham offside. However, Bowen evaded the trap as West Ham arced a ball to him down the right side. The forward lashed his half volley past Ramsdale to make it 2-2 West Ham
Jesus, who seemed like the only player who was making an impact in the final third with his hold up play, made way on the 66th minute for Trossard. Partey, who was also underpar in the match, was replaced by Jorginho.
Trossard made an immediate impact, dropping into pockets of space to play shorter passes and quick interchanges with his partners. But the Gunners still struggled to create good chances in the West Ham box.
West Ham though, looked dangerous on the counter. Antonio’s header hit the bar and Tierney needed to pull off a last ditch tackle to deny a winner from the home side.
The rest of the match was a slog. Not even bringing on Vieira, Nelson and Nketiah could have turned the tide and fashioned more chances to win the game.
At the final whistle, Arsenal were four points ahead of Manchester City, having played a game more. Unlike the draw at Anfield, this felt like two points dropped in the title race.