Arsenal 3 – 0 West Ham United
A game of two halves, figuratively and literally, as Arsenal brushed aside a frankly poor West Ham side, even by their standards. Three second half goals did the trick to give us our first league win since beating Hull City almost two months ago.
While the first half continued at the level of the second against Manchester City, there were signs that confidence is slowly returning in yesterday’s second half. One player encapsulated that more than most: Mesut Özil. The German’s form returned and was capped with a goal and an assist. I thought he got lucky with the goal. Randolph made a complete pig’s ear of what was a routine save but there was nothing fortunate about the assist; it was peak Özil to not just see Walcott but find him at pace, with the perfect pass.
Arsène showed him the love after the match,
“..he had been hit hard by us going out in the Champions League and it took him some time to recover from that mentally.”
I guess the question is, like Arsenal, whether this is a return to form or a brief hiccup in the slough of despair into which we have slumped.
While results may tempt you into thinking that Liverpool are the team we might catch, I’d rather have their run-in where the highest placed team they face is West Brom. Try not to get carried away on the back of a win, kids; football euphoria is the most dangerous drug known to man.
Towers of London
The margin of victory might have been more had Martin Atkinson not denied us three clear penalties, each more clear cut than the previous incident. It wasn’t a good night for officials, with Keith Stroud’s superior intellect on display at Newcastle where he made the mother of all cock-ups. I mean, he was so bad that even the PGMOL apologised for his decision. His punishment? Probably officiating at Crystal Palace on Monday night.
A special mention should go to Emi Martinez, thrust into the Premier League for the first time in a couple of years. We sniggered when Wenger claimed he was the future of the club. But in fairness, the Argentinean was more assured than Ospina or Cech in recent weeks.
OK, it was West Ham and the defence was firmer than usual – remember it’s a low bar – in the face of poor opposition but Martinez kept a clean sheet with a sharp save from Lanzini to boot. Overall, his distribution was good, which is a positive.
As was the overall defensive display. Andy Carroll usually looks a world-beater against us yet last night was controlled and bullied for the most part, by Gabriel and Mustafi. Denying West Ham the opportunity to lump the ball to him was down to hard work from the full backs and midfield.
Granit Xhaka is a different player when he stays on his feet and avoids the referee’s wrath. His first-rate passing last night underlined why he cost £35m, caressing the ball over various distances.
Burning With Optimism’s Flames
Controlling the midfield helped with the overall performance, there’s no doubt about that. Ox came on and his energetic burst gave Olivier Giroud the pick of the night’s goals. Not that you’d have known it from his sullen reaction. Being the Premier League’s most efficient striker – statistically speaking – is not enough to get him ahead of Danny Welbeck in the starting line-up so maybe has a point…
If the barge on Theo Walcott was inexplicably not a penalty, God knows what the referee was smoking at half-time. Nacho Monreal, clearly clattered in the area, received the agony but no ecstasy at the award of a penalty. Atkinson was unmoved.
Has football has introduced a new ‘mercy’ ruling? Were West Ham the first to avoid humiliation under it? It wouldn’t surprise me if that were sneaked out, along with a new sponsorship deal with Dignitas. The PGMOL is tired of mistakes; instead of demotion, officials are offered a focused training session in Switzerland.
It’s easy after one victory to see this as the turning point. Perhaps it is but arriving now is a typically Arsenal thing to do. We still have to visit White Hart Lane while City have the Mancunian derby to navigate. With Palace and Middlesbrough away before the FA Cup semi-final, it won’t be any surprise if the announcement about his Lordship’s contract comes in the next fortnight, portrayed as some kind of ‘boost’ to the club.
Paper and Iron (Notes and Coins)
The Metropolitan Police reportedly estimated that last night’s crowd was circa 48k. That’s a lot more empty seats than we’d expect for a midweek match with our form. Will the board take notice? For large parts of the first half, they could have counted the red seats from their vantage point; there wasn’t much going on, was there?
At the moment, it’s a win and to be honest, I like winning. We just don’t do it often enough.
If you’re in the mood for a party, head over to Dad’s Jukebox where we’re celebrating like it’s 1999. Except it’s only 1998…