Arsenal 5-1 West Ham
Having suffered a demoralising defeat away to Chelsea, Arsenal bounced back in impressive fashion yesterday. It wasn’t just the fact they secured all three points against West Ham, but the manner of their performance which was most striking. In their two previous league matches, the Gunners had failed to perform in the first half, only to then vastly improve in the second period, but ultimately to no avail.
Last night however, the home side’s display was full of movement and invention. Giroud, who had been largely anonymous against Chelsea as he struggled to link up play, became the fulcrum of the Arsenal attack. The Frenchman was more than willing to receive the ball with his back to goal, before expertly laying it off to a teammate, often granting them the opportunity to advance on goal and have a shot.
The Gunners wide players, Walcott and the returning Podolski, ran West Ham ragged with their constant movement as they sought to get in behind the visitor’s defence. It is such movement which has been distinctly lacking in Arsenal’s performances against the best teams in the Premier League. These have been displays characterised by the Gunners complete lack of attacking ideas. Yesterday however, Arsenal’s creative midfielders, Wilshere and Cazorla had an abundance of options each and every time they had the ball. Additionally, with Giroud ably holding the ball up, they also had the confidence to embark on forward runs, which West Ham simply couldn’t cope with.
Yet while Arsenal’s passing and movement were a joy to behold, as the team surged forward time and time again, particularly in the second half, the Gunners Achilles heel for so many years, defending set pieces, also reared its ugly head once more. A West Ham side managed by Sam Allardyce were always going to pose a threat from set pieces, so Arsenal should have been prepared. However, in the first half, the Gunners inadequacies from their zonal marking system were laid bare once again as on three occasions the visitors were allowed free headers. These instances were a sign of things to come and in the 18th minute, Giroud’s headed clearance from a corner fell straight to Jack Collison, who was completely unmarked on the edge of the Arsenal box. Collison was afforded enough time and space to bring the ball down and fire a powerful effort past Szczesny to leave the home crowd stunned and give the visitors the lead.
With the Arsenal faithful extremely frustrated, it was crucial for the Gunners to get themselves back into the game as quickly as possible. Four minutes after Collison’s strike, Lukas Podolski set the Emirates alight with a wonderful effort from 25 yards out. Having received the ball from Wilshere, the German international took one touch before taking a swing with his favoured left foot. The ball travelled so fast into the far corner of the net that Jaaskelainen simply had no chance of saving it; it was a truly exceptional goal which gave the Gunners great impetus.
Arsenal were pouring forward now and could have taken the lead 10 minutes before half time. Great interplay between Giroud and Gibbs, sent the Englishman clear on the edge of the box, unfortunately his cut back was just out of Podolski’s reach and the German couldn’t stretch far enough to make sufficient contact with the ball and double his tally for the night.
The Gunners may have felt hard done by not to be leading at the half time whistle, however they made sure this would not be the case come full time, with an exceptional 10 minute demolition at the start of the second half, in which Arsenal scored four goals without reply.
First, as Theo Walcott prepared to take a corner, Olivier Giroud’s fantastic run caught the West Ham defence napping, allowing the Frenchman to ghost in at the near post before volleying Walcott’s delivery against Jaaskelainen and into the back of the net to give the Gunners the lead.
Giroud’s strike opened up the floodgates and every time Arsenal attacked, they seemed likely to score. In the 53rd minute, the home side added their third goal of the night, thanks to wonderful interplay between Giroud and Podolski on the edge of the box. The duo exchanged passes before Podolski slid the ball across to Cazorla. At first it appeared as though the Spaniard was too close to the goalkeeper to score, but in an act of wonderful skill and technical ability, Cazorla managed to turn and back flick the ball past the bamboozled Jaaskelainen and across the line.
The bombardment was not finished yet and only a minute after Cazorla had made the score 3-1 to the Gunners, Walcott added his name to score sheet too. Wilshere’s perfectly weighted pass sent Podolski clear on the left and the German’s wonderful ball right across the box was steered home by Walcott at the back post. Podolski turned provider once more, in the 57th minute, as Giroud this time flicked the German’s low ball past Jaaskelainen to complete a wonderful ten minute spell for the Gunners.
Arsene Wenger will be extremely proud of the way in which his side responded to the disappointment of defeats against both Chelsea and Manchester City. However, the Gunners cannot rest on their laurels and must reproduce such displays game after game, regardless of the opposition. The fact they haven’t been able to do so since the start of the season is the reason why Arsenal find themselves in the position they are in.