Arsenal suffered their third loss of the season as they were beaten 2-0 by West Ham in their penultimate game of 2023.
The Gunners were undoubtedly the dominant side throughout the game. However, the Hammers capitalised on the big moments and that is what got them the victory.
Mikel Arteta’s men simply could not break through the West Ham defence. David Moyes’ approach was made clear when we could see 11 men in the away teams’ box. When Arsenal broke past the blockade, they lacked clinicality which ultimately cost them potentially crucial points. The game, however, could be seen as an unlucky one.
No matter how good you are, some days simply just aren’t it and this is simply how football works. There are negatives, but a lot more positives to take away from the contest.
Here are the 3 things we learnt from the game.
3 things we learnt from Arsenal's loss against West Ham
1. Technology to assist the referees must be improved
VAR was introduced to be helpful to referees, but lately it seems to be doing the opposite. The Hammers’ first goal came from a controversial VAR decision (yet again) akin to the one taken in the loss against Newcastle United a few weeks ago.
Speaking on the decision, Arteta said: “I haven’t seen it. They’re saying it’s not conclusive. It’s a shame that with the technology that we have, that it’s not that clear so that we can say whether it’s out or in. It’s done. It’s gone. There’s nothing we can do about it now.”
VAR’s incompetence has become farcical lately. The technology is introduced to give angles that are generally unavailable to the referees. In this scenario, despite the presence of an angle, the decision reached is justified by its inconclusiveness.
Something has to be improved here, this incompetence cannot carry on in such a highly competitive and ranked league.
2. Arsenal’s attacking woes are intensifying each game
Along with the lack of ability to convert their chances, the need for a traditional #9 attacker intensifies with each passing game. Arsenal had a total of 30 shots yesterday from which only eight were on target. They also had five big chances which they failed to convert.
In contrast, West Ham had a total of six shots, three shots were on target and they capitalised on their two big chances which helped them seal the three points against the Gunners.
Martin Odegaard had a noteworthy performance yesterday. The Arsenal captain continuously advanced the ball forward and was key to the transitional phase when attacking.
Speaking on the missed chances, Arteta said: “It’s what it is. We have to try to generate. If we don’t score with 30 shots, then we have to do 50 or 60 to try to score. That’s the only thing. I can’t imagine a game where we have more touches in the box, more dominance and less situations for the opponent against a really good West Ham side. Today, though, it wasn’t enough to win the game.”
Despite his words, I’m sure Arteta knows what he has to do in January – sign a proven attacker. This quality of attack does not win you titles.
3. January will be a defining point for the season ahead
Picking up from where we left off in the previous point, the Gunners must seek to improve their attack. One of the ways to do that is by signing a striker that can break between lines and be clinical in front of goal.
The north London side reportedly have the likes of Ivan Toney, Dusan Vlahovic, Victor Osimhen and Benjamin Sesko on their transfer list. Arenal must secure the services of one of these players. It will bring a different much needed energy (in attack) to the squad.
By now, every Arsenal fan has learned not to lament about questionable officiating—sadly it has become the new normal. Accentuating on Mikel Arteta’s point, we can only change what we control. As fans we must continue to wave the team on, support them, and hope that it will motivate them to improve.