Category Archives: West Ham

Here’s how Arsenal prise Declan Rice away from West Ham…

Look. Like the rest of you, I want us to waltz our way to the title, swatting aside each and every opponent who dares to stand in our way. Leeds? Crystal Palace? Fulham? We should and did trample them. We had our chance against Liverpool but let that slip. As we look ahead to West Ham, then, it almost feels silly for us to be assessing their fitness and priorities, given that they’re facing relegation. Ahead of our Sunday clash, though, there’s nothing wrong with sussing out the situation.

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Arsenal 3-1 West Ham: Familiar frailties, fierce fight-back

Despite the importance of the match, Arsenal came out and just looked unable to unlock West Ham, who looked to be more than happy to secure a draw—that is, until a scrappy scrum of a goal in the 40th minute gave West Ham a vital lead going into the half, and it looked like we would be in for another disappointing result, whether it would be an out-and-out loss like the shocker at Stoke or a tepid draw similar to the one we suffered with Wigan. This time, though, there would be no penalty-kicks to bail us out. Turns out, we wouldn’t need one, thanks to the ferocity with which we fought back.

See, Andy, there’s more to scoring than using your head.

Weary legs from Saturday’s two-hour slog led to a sluggish start, and the Hammers’ fresh legs had them looking the livelier, and it’s little wonder that we held them off as long as we did, Diamé doing his level-best to suggest we again try to sign him again, taking on defenders and spraying shots with abandon and intent. By the time Jarvis headed home after a scuffle in our box, it looked like it would be one of those days: outhustled and outworked, if not outplayed. Whatever momentum we might have created by advancing to the FA Cup final looked to have disappeared under the bludgeoning attack of Carroll, Diamé, and the rest of the Hammers.

However, in the kind of display we haven’t seen in weeks, we dug in and found another gear. In short order—about three minutes, give or take—we were on level terms again, thanks to some scrappy play of our own. Giroud, working as hard as ever, forced a rushed pass from deep in the Hammers’ corner, and the ball went straight to Cazorla, who zipped a pass into Podolski in the box. Podolski, taking a touch or two to collect himself, promptly lashed a shot at a tight angle to the far corner, and that was that. Instead of going into halftime facing a Hammers side brimming with confidence and ready to sit back to defend a lead, we had bashed right back and seized the game in fine style: pressing, quick passing, clinical finishing. The floodgates, such as they were, had opened.

Ten minutes from halftime, Vermaelen collected a clearance and, from near midfield, lofted a looonng ball back into the box, finding Giroud right at the corner of the six-yard box. His first touch was feather-soft, and he slotted home right through Adrian’s legs. It was a nice touch of Giroud to remove and kiss the black arm-band that he and other players wore to honor the Hillsborough 96.

From there, it was almost all Arsenal. Instead of settling for defending a narrow lead, we continued to press forward to find the insurance goal, and it came, perhaps as no coincidence, shortly after Aaron Ramsey came in. He looked bound and determined to make up for lost time, chipping in a fine assist for Podolski in the 78th minute. Credit Giroud again, though, for some fine work that would otherwise count as a second-assist, chasing down the ball in the corner and chipping back across to Ramsey, who headed down into the box for Podolski to unleash that Mjölnir-like left foot, simply blasting the ball at point-blank range past Adrian, who, like Neuer before him, was more likely ducking out of the way rather than attempting a save. It’s been a while since we could claim to have roundly beaten a team. I won’t quite say we did that today, but it was gratifying to see us run away with one rather than have to chase it.

It was a fine all-around effort; Cazorla was his vintage self, jinking and dribbling and creating like days of old. Giroud was working and producing. Podolski was revitalized. Källström looked capable if not yet comfortable. Can you believe that this is the first time we’ve won consecutive matches since January? It’s been since we beat Fulham back on 18 January and then Coventry on 24 January, a long time indeed. We have five matches left to play, and the reinforcements are on their way. We might have Monreal, Gnabry, and, yes, Özil, back for Sunday’s match with Hull. More important perhaps, is a return of the fighting spirit that had gone missing in recent weeks, if not months. How many of us held our heads in our hands after Jarvis’s goal and thought, “here we go again. Here’s where it all falls to pieces”? It doesn’t seem like the players got that message, though. They got right back to the business of winning the game, and win it did. We’ll see on Wednesday whether Everton can pick up the gauntlet that we’ve thrown down. Heck, Crystal Palace owe us. We gave them Chamakh, and our win today means they can get level on points with West Ham in 11th position.

Five matches to go—one of them a pre-FA Cup final check-in with Hull on Sunday.

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Arsenal 3-1 West Ham: Video Highlights

A Podolski brace came either side of a goal from Giroud as Arsenal stormed back from a 0-1 deficit; just three minutes after West Ham had seized a lead and looked to go into the half with the advantage, Podolski answered. His goal shifted the momentum, and just ten minutes into the second half, Giroud netted to put the Gunners ahead. It wasn’t over yet, though, as Podolski blasted his second past keeper Adrian in a style reminiscent of his goal at Bayern—simply blasting it past the hapless keeper and into the roof of the net. There was something in it for everyone: a frustrating first half, familiar frailties, and a fierce fight-back to seize all three points. Check out the video below for the highlights! (It gets a bit blurry if you go full-screen; I suggest you leave it as-is…).

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Pre-match Prediction Poll: Källström surges ahead as MotM; Gooners’ faith off the charts…

The results are still trickling in, but we’re closing in on kick-off, so a few more votes coming in over the next half-hour probably won’t change the numbers that much. The lineup includes Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Arteta, Rosický, Källström, Cazorla, Podolski, and Giroud, which looks to be a strong line-up, making up in size what it may lack in pace (excepting Cazorla, of course). The results of the fan-poll follow below; at a minimum, two of the three leaders for our Man of the Match start, Ramsey being the exception.

Källström emerges as the surprising front-runner for the Man of the Match award. Whether this is down to a lack of faith in other regulars like Giroud or Podolski or to an affirmative belief in Källström’s ability to influence the outcome is an open question that others should feel free to weigh in on: is it because Källström is one of the only players fully fit and relatively fresh after the grueling slog against Wigan? Garnering 23% of the vote isn’t quite a majority; it’s hardly a plurality, but he’s ahead of a crowded field. Coming in just behind are Cazorla at 17% and Giroud at 16%. Perhaps as a symbol of faith in our egalitarian approach, fourteen different players received votes, including an interesting 9% for Sanogo, despite his uneven performance against Wigan.

More tellingly, though, is the degree of optimism concerning the outcome. Despite some lingering ennui over our inability to defeat Wigan over the course of 120 minutes, the overhwhelming majority of voters see a win for Arsenal. Those with a more sociological bent might suggest that the results are skewed by the population-sample; to them, I’d ask, have you seen how depressed Gooners have been lately? We’re our own worst critics. At any rate, 84% of our completely scientifically-valid poll forecast a win, with 48% of all voters seeing a two-goal margin. I don’t know if the 3% who predicted that West Ham would win by three goals or more are Gooners or Hammers (Hammerers?) who tried to skew the results. At any rate, it’s a welcome change of pace to see this level of optimism; time will tell, of course, if any of us know what we’re really talking about.

As I write this, there are about 20 minutes until kick-off. Let’s hope we all know what we’re talking ‘about—well, except the aforementioned 3%. Sour-pusses.

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