Arsenal have now won 11 out of 13 matches since New Years Day, which includes 7 out of 8 in the league. The gap between us and second is now only 1 point, thanks to Burnley, and, depending on the result of the Chelsea vs Southampton match later today, we could even throw down a late title challenge.
The first half yesterday could be summed up as typical Arsenal. We kept knocking on the door, chance after chance, only for the opposition to hoof the ball up to their striker who, if he had a bit more quality around him, punished us. We started brightly and could have scored within the opening 5 minutes. Theo was put through only to be tackled at the last moment.
Theo, who got his first start since coming back from injury, was the point of frustration for the Emirates yesterday. He started well by making runs and getting into goal scoring opportunities but quickly showed why he wasn’t being picked. His laziness did not sit well with the fans in the stadium. He didn’t track back down the right to provide cover for Chambers. He didn’t move into space down the right whilst Chambers was bringing the ball forward and reduced our options. He kept coming central and hiding in well occupied areas. He was jogging up and down the field, constantly being passed by other plays busting a gut.
Ozil, on the other hand, has been outstanding since his return from injury, especially in the last week. Since being moved more central he has flourished and even chases down the ball. Earlier in the season he was not up to his expected standard and people were frustrated with him, which is what you expect when you shatter your transfer record for a player of his quality. When he is clearly performing well, people just try and find every reason to continue hating on him. He can’t win. The one criticism I have of the German is that he needs to shoot when he is in a goal scoring opportunity more. He was one on one with Adrian and he decided to play it to Theo over the other side of the area was crazy. Shoot across the keeper and force him to make a save which could bounce to one of our players to tap in.
We finally managed to break through at the death of the first half with a brilliant Giroud goal. He is such a great player for us as he does a lot more than just score goals. He is up competing for every ball in the air, holding off players and involved in most of the build plays.
Ramsey also came in to the first team to replace Cazorla. I have been critical of the Welshman this year as he has not continued his form from last season and has been over complicating his game. Yesterday he was back to his best because he kept it simple. He didn’t try to force the play or try too many flicks and overcomplicate things. He was rewarded with a goal after some brilliant interlinking with Giroud. The Frenchman sold a defender a dummy, from a throw in, then Ramsey played a one-two with him before finishing first time.
There were two moments of togetherness between the Arsenal and West Ham fans as they started singing “Stand up if you hate Tottenham” and we joined in. Goes to show everyone hates Tottenham. Another was the rather humorous “You’re not fit to referee” as Chris Foy had to be substituted for Anthony Taylor. We also had a giggle when they started singing about “Alex Song left because you’re shit”.
Wenger made some subs and one of them, being Flamini, scored within a minute of his introduction. Once Welbeck and Cazorla came on I felt it added more of an outlet down the wing. Their energy and fast pace demonstrated that by being involved in the latter 2 goals. Welbeck was also unlucky not have scored himself, from a header, forcing Adrian into a good save.
Wenger had this to say after the match:
“It’s a good performance. We controlled the game in the first half, created many chances but couldn’t score. 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. After, in the final part of the game, we always looked dangerous and capable of scoring goals. We had to patient, organised and steady. Overall we scored great collective goals like we love to play.”
What a week this has been for us Arsenal fans. Beat QPR, beat Manchester United away and finally getting the result we deserve up there as well as booking our place in the FA Cup Semi Final at Wembley (for the second year running) and now beating West Ham. Could we…..just could we go to Monaco and produce a ‘miracle’? We nearly done it in previous years against Bayern Munich (2-0 to us away) and AC Milan (3-0 to us away) but can we do it this year? We’ll find out Tuesday!