Arsenal Cruise Past West Ham, Move a Single Point Off of Second Place


The chants for Wembley buzzed around the Emirates on Saturday when Arsenal welcomed West Ham, but with one eye on Wembley and one foot in Monaco the Gunners needed to make sure they got the job done.

Callum Chambers, Nacho Monreal, Aaron Ramsey, and most interestingly/importantly Theo Walcott were all slipped into the starting lineup.  Wenger was clearly trying to give a few players some rest ahead of the midweek match (Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil both didn’t finish the match either), but Theo needed a start too.  Ozil in the center with Alexis and Walcott on the wings is something I dreamed about from the day we signed Sanchez, but we haven’t really got that chance thus far, so this was a mouth watering lineup.

More from Pain in the Arsenal

Arsenal came out the gates running, and it seemed like the wings of Alexis and Walcott were working out wonderfully.  Only a few minutes from the whistle Arsenal had what would have certainly been a goal of the season nominee candidate had Walcott actually taken a shot.

Some beautiful one-touch passing and a back heel saw Theo in on goal about 8 yards out, but instead of taking a shot he took another touch and was bowled over by the West Ham defense.  It should have been a penalty, but more importantly it should not have mattered.  I’m sure it will take him a while to get his ruthlessness back in front of goal, but this was pretty terrible.

Arsenal continued to look devastating throughout the half, particularly so on the break.  A couple of times they looked so fluid and fast that I couldn’t think of anything but the highlights from the Invincibles era, even though our final ball was lacking.

The West Ham keeper, Adrian made his stake for man of the match making a number of good saves throughout the first half.  First from a far post header from Alexis, then a strike from Ramsey who was picked out brilliantly with a cross from Chambers, and also from an Alexis Volley after a sublime flick over the defense by Ozil.

West Ham did cause some moments of worry for Arsenal as Diafra Sahko continued to find space behind the Arsenal back line and more specifically down the right against Chambers. The former Southampton man looked class going forward on the day, but proved that defensively, he’s still got some work to do. Thankfully for Arsenal, a great day of defense for both Laurent Koscielny and Francis Coquelin combined with the inability of any other West Ham players to get forward, saw these chances squandered.

Just before halftime it seemed Arsenal had finally gotten their deserved goal, but the chance again proved to be too much for Walcott.  A deflected Giroud shot fell to the feet of Theo, but he just couldn’t get the ball in the back of the open net.  In reality this chance was probably harder than his first because of the speed of the deflection, but it still should have been scored.

Arsenal did get their goal on the stroke of halftime, and what a goal it was.  Ozil played Ramsey in to the box with a great pass  and in came Giroud from the other side of Ramsey.  As the Welshman and Frenchman crossed paths Giroud found himself with the ball and ripped it into the upper corner of the net. It was a beauty.

View image |

For whatever reason I don’t think we get to see Giroud’s skill enough, but when we do it is absolutely great.  So after a moment of brilliance from Olivier Giroud the match went into halftime 1-0 to the good guys.

The second half did not quite live up to the first, but it certainly wasn’t dull either.  It took Arsenal most of the second half to get back to their best play, and after a first half where they had 74% of the possession (I think) they came back down to earth a bit.

“In the second half I felt we were a bit short of energy coming out of the dressing room for a while and West Ham were on top for that period.”- Arsene Wenger

West Ham did have a hard time making chances from their possession though.  They had a few, but the closest came in the 59th when a headed clearance from a West Ham corner went the way of Mark Noble. He volleyed the shot off of his chest, but was only able to send the shot over the cross bar.

It wouldn’t come until the 81st , but in that minute Arsenal put the nail in West Ham’s coffin.  A superb one-two inside the Hammer’s box, between Giroud and Ramsey, saw Ramsey rifle his first goal in a while right past Adrian. It was the kind of thing we have not seen enough from Ramsey this season and hopefully that ends now.  He was great as a whole on the day, going forward while Coquelin stayed deep.  I think the team could really benefit from a central pairing of those two, in form (even though that might make it a bit awkward for Wilshere and Walcott).

Arsenal got their 3rd just 3 minutes later on the back of some brilliant play from Giroud, Danny Welbeck, and who else but the 2nd half sub, Santi Cazorla.  Some more one touch passing put Cazorla in on the left and from there he sent a low cross right in front of goal.  The cross eventually found fellow sub Mathieu Flamini, who simply tapped it home for a bit of icing on Arsenal’s cake.

Though some chances didn’t quite go Arsenal’s way in the beginning, they eventually got the result they deserved and saw off a West Ham side which is sinking fast.

The man of the day for Arsenal probably has to go to the one and only Olivier Giroud, followed by Ramsey.  Since coming back from his injury in December (and also before) the Frenchman has been world class.  Sometimes we take him for granted because of performances like the one against Monaco, but we really do have a class striker. Lets have a look at some numbers (via Squawka)

[table id=25 /]

What we see here is that, when compared to who most people would probably call the best strikers in England, this year at least, Giroud is just as good.  Let’s give the man some credit where credit is due.

I know it has been said before but Ozil again looked good on the day.  He definitely seems to have found his stride and looks comfortable in his ‘natural’ position.  He had excellent vision all match and basically “out Oziled” himself late on when instead of shooting when 99.99% of other players would have, he layed off and passed it across the box.

Though I touched on it earlier it also needs to be noted again that Ramsey, Koscielny, and Coquelin all put in excellent shifts.  This is the type of performance that makes you wonder “what if”?  Wenger himself said this is a different team than the one that started the season.

"If you have no belief, you have no chance. We have to believe that we can do it [ Advance to Quarter Finals] and give everything. This time Monaco are favourites so we have to go there, give absolutely everything and come out of the game with that feeling.”- Arsene Wenger"

Going into a must

get a miracle

win against Monaco this week, this is just about what the doctor ordered.  It could have been better but it was enough to reassure me that we’ve got what it takes. Advancing from a 3-1 deficit has never been done in the Champion’s League before, but anyone who watched our response to the 0-4 drubbing in Milan in 2012 knows that anything is

(almost) possible.  Bring on Monaco and #COYG

For more up-to-date news, follow Pain in the Arsenal on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

Next: Was Walcott Good Enough?