West Ham 3-3 Arsenal
Arsenal threw away more points on Saturday in a calamitous display which summed up everything that is wrong with this team.
A game away to West Ham is always a difficult prospect but this match had a great intensity about it.A London derby in a tight and very atmospheric ground at a time of the season when anything less than three points is just not good enough can only lead to great tension amongst fans and players alike.
However Arsenal handled the pressure extremely well, but only for the first 40 minutes. The Gunners kept things tight at the back, didn’t give the home side any chances to get the crowd on side and build an atmosphere. The away side then further quietened the crowd by going two goals up thanks to two excellent assists from Alex Iwobi. The youngster first played a perfectly weighted through ball into the path f Mesut Ozil, who duly steered the ball past Adrian to give the Gunners the lead. Iwobi then clipped a clever ball over the top of the West Ham defence, having spotted Alexis Sanchez, unmarked and the Chilean doubled Arsenal’s lead.
With the Gunners two goals to the good, the game should have been over. All Arsene Wenger’s men had to do was show some game management to keep the ball, kill the match and make sure they didn’t concede, especially before half time. Unfortunately, having scored the second goal, it appeared the Arsenal players believed the game was won and just stopped playing.
Suddenly they became sloppy, giving the ball away far too cheaply and needlessly inviting pressure on themselves. With Slaven Bilic having deployed Any Carroll up front, it was obvious what the West Ham game plan would be. The Hammers would clearly seek to get the ball out wide and cross it into the box towards the big man. In order to combat these tactics the Gunners needed to double up on the flanks whenever the home side launched an attack, forcing the player on the ball to come inside rather than racing towards the by-line. If the ball was ever played into a central area, just outside the box, then Arsenal needed to quickly put pressure on the ball so that the player in possession wouldn’t have time to look up and deliver a cross.
At first Arsenal did well, working hard to restrict the home side from crossing balls into the area, but having gone two goals up, the Gunners just abandoned their own game plan. Suddenly West Ham were starting to enjoy freedom on the wings and crosses began to be delivered into the area. Having been kept very quiet, Carroll was suddenly coming alive and becoming a big influence on the game. Arsenal were no longer restricting his service and Carroll soon made them pay. As the game was close to reaching half time, the former Liverpool man headed home to reduce the deficit, running onto a cross which eluded both of Arsenal’s central defenders.
Having conceded one, the Gunners should have made sure they got to half time still in the lead and regrouped during the break. But they just couldn’t hold on as sloppiness once again say them lose possession before another cross came into the box once again towards Carroll, who was completely unmarked in the area. It was ridiculous that West Ham’s biggest aerial threat could be left all alone in such a situation. Carroll’s first attempt was blocked by Gabriel but the ball bounced back to the striker and as Carroll lined up to acrobatically fire a shot towards goal, Gabriel made no attempt to close him down and just stood still. Carroll’s shot deflected off the Brazilian and into the net to restore parity.
Having been completely subdued, the home crowd were now all on their feet cheering their side on. From nowhere they had clawed themselves right back into the game and they weren’t about to stop there. West Ham right back Antonio got the ball on the right flank and as Monreal approached him, Antonio simply ran towards the by-line and delivered a ball towards the back post. Monreal’s attempt to stop him was so pathetic, he might as well have not been there at all. The ball to the back post was of course aimed towards Carroll, who was completely unmarked yet again and headed the ball towards goal. Ospina was all set to save the effort before Gabriel’s attempt to clear the ball saw it steered away from the goalkeeper and into the net.
Having turned the game completely on its head, West Ham should have used the momentum to see the game out, but Arsenal rallied and got themselves a third goal through Laurent Koscileny to make the score 3-3. But in the end the Gunners couldn’t find a winner and given their league position, a draw was just not good enough. The fact they had thrown away a two goal lead simply highlighted the deficiencies of this team. Once again simple game management let them down and when the game suddenly appeared to be going away from them, there were no leaders on the pitch to ensure they did not concede the second and then the third goal. The manager should also take his share of the blame as he did nothing to change the shape of his side during the half time break. As a result it was no real surprise when West Ham took the lead thanks to another cross into the box and another header from Carroll. The fact Arsenal are now 13 points behind Leicester, albeit with a game in hand, is simply ridiculous, especially when you consider the fact that the Gunners defeated Leicester both home and away this season. The players and manager should all be ashamed of themselves.