By Walter Broeckx
To start this match at the home ground of the team that sat in front of us at the start of this match we had Szczesny, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Alexis, Welbeck. On the beach sat Ospina, Gibbs, Chambers, Campbell, Walcott, Podolski, Akpom.
So Koscielny back in the starting line up and I think with the fact we faced Carroll a wise choice. Monreal at left back to stop crosses as much as possible. We saw a first start for Coquelin in the PL this season in midfield. And also Oxlade-Chamberlain came in after his injury. Giroud of course was suspended and the other drop outs were Gibbs and Rosicky. So some rotation but not that much.
The opening minutes were for West Ham. And it seemed that Song opened the score when he hit a long distance shot after a corner was cleared. I was watching a Danish stream (could have been Swedish, Norwegian or Finnish also to be honest) so I couldn’t understand a word they said. But suddenly the 1-0 was removed and the score was back to 0-0 as the assistant had raised his flag for offside. One of the WH players coming back and moving and maybe even touching the ball before it went in.
I must admit the stream was too blurry to judge if he really touched the ball or not but he certainly attempted to divert the ball and in that case the call of offside was correct.
West Ham stayed on top for much of the first half. Arsenal defended in numbers and most players working their socks off. Not that West Ham created that much in fact as it was more pumping balls in the direction of Carroll and hoping something would come from the second ball. But Arsenal was sharp on the second ball. Carroll receiving a yellow card for using his arm a bit too much against the face of Debuchy.
Gradually Arsenal improved but they also couldn’t really come to clear cut chances. But suddenly Arsenal turned up a gear and burst in to live. Welbeck and Cazorla combining and running through the middle of the West Ham defensive line. Cazorla went past Reid who clearly brought him down as he raised his foot so high that it caught Cazoral knee high. A 100% penalty and after some consideration the ref pointed to the spot.
The old football rule that the fouled player should not take the penalty himself doesn’t count for Cazorla. He send the keeper the wrong way and Arsenal was 0-1 in front.
That was a big blow for West Ham and before they realised what had happened Arsenal scored again. This time a combination on the right hand side between Oxlade-Chamberlain and Debuchy freed up Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right. His low cross was put over the line by Welbeck. 0-2 at half time.
West Ham came at us again at the start of the second half. Arsenal tried to use the space but couldn’t really get a counter going with some end product. West Ham pressure leading to some corners and some high balls and Kouyate headed a cross in from the head of Debuchy. I wonder if the deflection didn’t take it in, not that I blame him for that of course. 1-2 after 52 minutes.
Arsenal replied with a hard shot from Cazorla but the WH keeper could save it and from the resulting corner Debuchy headed over. West Ham using the cross as much as you can tactics aimed at the big guys up front and a few nearby misses on those crosses.
West Ham pressing and then Welbeck recovered a ball just on the own half and ran towards the West Ham goal but his shot was put wide by the keeper. Not really much pretty football during this period. But the speed with saw the ball moving from left to right was high. With only 48 hours between matches it was also a question on who would end up with an empty tank.
A great cross from Alexis and a great header from Oxlade-Chamberlain but the West Ham keeper with a great reaction save to deny Oxlade-Chamberlain a goal. Another chance minutes later when Alexis found a bit of space but again the keeper stopping the effort. And seconds later Welbeck again with a chance but his shot went well over. 3 big, big chances for Arsenal in the space of a few minutes.
And then again a great shot from Cazorla but again the WH keeper stopped the goal bound effort and then Cazorla fired the rebound over. We should have wrapped up the match by now.
With some 7 minutes to go Wenger took of Welbeck and brought on Gibbs. West Ham throwing ball forward but Oxlade-Chamberlain shooting wide on the break then brought down on the next counter but the ref gave nothing. Foul was outside the penalty area.
In the last minute of normal time Oxlade-Chambarlain was taken off and Chambers came on. 5 minutes of extra time?? Where did that came from????
West Ham throwing everything forward and the ref blowing every contact as a foul against Arsenal. But the Arsenal players fought bravely and could hold on to the lead. An important win with all the other teams in the top 5 drawing their games.
This win takes us over West Ham and we now are level on points with Southampton who is in 4th place. And who we will meet next year in our first match of the year.
A great and hard fought win.
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