West Ham vs Arsenal: Match Notes
I had said a while ago that West Ham would be our bogey team much like Bolton had been all those years ago under Sam Allardyce. It’s just a style of football that has stumped this Arsenal side more or less the entirety of Arsène Wenger’s reign. In essence, this year’s side have seemed the most capable of handling such a team in quite a while. Obviously, I was glad that didn’t come to fruition even though we didn’t make it easy for ourselves.
Arsenal, under Wenger, have always struggled to bounce back from a big loss. Single goal losses, sometimes not even that, have led to entire title challenges crumbling under our feet. So after the loss against Chelsea, it was always going to be tough to bounce back. You could see how down the players were against Olympiacos and again lax defending led to West Ham’s first goal.
The team did well to turn the result around and the manner of the win may build up that momentum again. A good comeback like this will surely boost the spirits and in the second half you could see how much more comfortable Arsenal were on the ball after being fairly tentative for the previous game and a half.
Arsene has taken a lot of stick for being poor tactically over the years but over the course of this season he’s shown some brilliant vision, making personnel changes that seem to perfectly counter the opposition.
- Giroud’s inclusion shouldn’t have come as much surprise. His height undoubtedly meant to help when defending set pieces and as another means to break down West Ham’s tough defence. It also meant we could play a little more direct and commit more men to stay deep and contain Diame and Carroll. It did make a big difference as Gervinho wasn’t allowed much space to bring the ball down when he was able to fall into the middle. It was clear right from the start that Giroud was locked in. His presence in the box was clearly felt as he finally broke his Premier League duck and got yet another assist to his name. Set pieces were supposedly a major weakness, amplified by the loss against Chelsea. But, while there were a couple of scary moments, for the most part we were able to deal with them.
- Defensively, there really should have been more pressure later in the game. In the process of attacking West Ham in the second half, we saw a lot more space being left behind the midfield for them to exploit on the counter. It led to a few big chances which fortunately fell to Kevin Nolan. That being said, Mertesacker and Vermaelen dealt brilliantly with Carroll whose effect was stifled to just a handful of notable incidents. Diamé was a little tougher to cope with but apart from a spell of pressure before and after his goal, he didn’t get involved much either.
There were some great performances at the individual level as well:
- Podolski has found himself isolated in the last few matches. Initially we saw nearly every attack going down the left but as Gervinho got the chance to play down the middle, the dependance on wing play was lessened. With Giroud up front, it gave him the impetus to get more involved. The direct running he’s so known for caused West Ham a lot of problems later in the game, especially in the frame of time between Demel’s injury and Tomkins settling into the game.
- Finally, we can’t forget Cazorla’s influence on the game. He really pulled the strings for most of the match and treated us to a brilliant goal to top it off.