Goals: Diame (21), Giroud (41), Walcott (76), Cazorla (83)
Arsenal got all three points in a hard fought and tense encounter at Upton Park.
Arsenal lined up with a 4-2-3-1 formation. Vito Mannone again started at the goal. Vermaalen was paired with Mertesacker at the center of the defence. Carl Jenkinson started at right back, and Kieran Gibbs was at left back. In central midfield, Mikel Arteta was paired with Aaron Ramsey, Podolski was on the left, and Gervinho was on the right. Cazorla was behind Giroud who started as the central striker.
Arsenal completely dominated the opening 20 minutes and hardly allowed West Ham any possession. Their quick passing and slick movement opened up West Ham on a number of occasions in this early period. After only 70 seconds, Cazorla played the ball to Ramsey who was running inside from the wide left channel. Ramsey’s return ball to Cazorla created havoc in front of the box, and the ball was deflected towards Giroud on the far side. The Frenchman’s low drive was saved by Jaaskelainen at the near post. On Arsenal’s left, Podolski, Cazorla and Gibbs were combining very well, and an early Arsenal goal looked likely. Podolski was released by Cazorla, and the German’s early cutback found the Spanish playmaker on the edge of the box. Cazorla went for placement rather than power, and his shot was blocked by Reid when Jaaskelainen was wrong footed. Shortly after the 15th minute mark, West Ham failed to clear a Cazorla corner, and Giroud’s curler inside the area was deflected wide by Andy Carroll.
Having hardly touched the ball in the first 20 minutes, West Ham took the lead with their first attempt on goal. McCartney brought the ball forward from his left back position and found Diame who was making a run inside the left channel. The Senegalese was tracked by Ramsey, and Jenkinson was also closing down, but he showed great skill in tricking his way past Ramsey into the box. Mertesacker could have attempted a tackle, yet he stood off, and the West Ham midfield enforcer curled a beauty into the far corner from a tight angle.
Surprisingly, the goal deflated Arsenal as they must have wondered how on earth they were trailing after their dominant start. West Ham, on the other hand, gained some confidence as Andy Carrol was working very hard up front, winning many headers and helping West Ham to hold the ball in Arsenal’s half. The big target man also forced a save from Mannone, when he rose above Arsenal defenders from a corner.
Arsenal seemed to have lost their slick movement of the first 20 minutes, yet they equalized 4 minutes from half time. Arteta won the ball in midfield and played it to Giroud. The French striker quickly fed Podolski’s run down the left, raced towards the near post, and guided home Podolski’s low cross for his first goal in the Premiere League. In the last minute of the half, West Ham almost reclaimed the lead. Noble’s set piece was again won in the air by Carroll whose knock down was missed by Nolan at the goal mouth.
West Ham started the second half in a more aggressive manner, as their midfield duo Noble and Diame started pressing the ball early. At around the hour mark, both teams were forced to make substitutions due to injuries. First, Kieran Gibbs left for Andre Santos due to a thigh injury. Vaz Te got his shoulder dislocated after a collision with Mannone, and he was replaced by Taylor. Wenger also took off the tiring Gervinho and sent in Walcott to the right wing.
West Ham’s physical approach seemed to be paying off in this period as Arsenal were not able to carve out any clear cut chances. It was West Ham who missed a big chance through Carroll to take the lead. A deep long ball into the box was met by the England striker who beat Mannone to the ball, but he could not direct his header into the unmarked net.
In the last 20 minutes, Arsenal raised their tempo again, led by the excellent Cazorla and found a string of chances. First Cazorla drove forward with the ball riding a couple of challenges, but sliced his effort wide from the edge of the box. Minutes later, Podolski cut inside from the left, but his low shot was saved by Jaaskelainen. Arsenal finally found the goal they were looking for with a brilliant counterattack. Cazorla started the move in Arsenal’s half with a collector’s item of a release ball to Giroud. The Frenchman broke from midfield, played Walcott through on the right channel, and the pacy winger finished in a very composed manner inside the near post.
Arsenal then secured the three points with another brilliant strike by their Spaniard master 7 minutes from time. Walcott drove inside from the right. When he almost lost the ball, his tackle placed the ball to Cazorla 25 yards out. The man who is a constant joy to watch fired a looping left footed shot to the top right corner. In the dying minutes of the game, Arsenal looked comfortable, missed a few more chances on the break, and wrapped up their victory.
This was a classy performance by Arsenal, despite facing difficult moments against a physical West Ham side. Cazorla’s performance in the second half was simply mesmerizing. Mertesacker and Vermaalen fought well with Andy Carroll, and Arsenal defense was generally alert to the second ball. Ramsey sometimes took too much time with the ball and was at fault in the West Ham goal, but his energy and drive forward showed that he is a better choice to pair with Arteta in the absence of Diaby and Wilshere.