West Ham United 1 (Cole 47) – 3 Arsenal (Walcott 68, 71, Podolski 79)
Man of the Match – Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
Arsenal returned to the top of the Premier League with a solid 3-1 win over West Ham. After a patchy December, which saw Arsenal draw at home to Everton, lose to Napoli and Manchester City away, before drawing goalless at home to Chelsea, the win is a welcome respite.
Thomas Vermaelen continued at centre back, in place of the injured Laurent Koscielny. Santi Cazorla made it to the starting line up, and so did Theo Walcott. Lukas Podolski would make his return after nearly 4 months on the sidelines.
Santi Cazorla had the first chance of the game, but his effort was saved. Olivier Giroud then failed to get on the end of a Bacary Sagna cross, having been kept under wraps by West Ham’s defenders. Wojciech Szczesny was called into action to push away a Mark Noble freekick, while West Ham keeper Adrian had to be alert to prevent a Cazorla header from going in.
Arsenal then created a number of chances, none of which were taken. Aaron Ramsey’s beautifully weighted ball above the Hammers’ defence fell right to Theo Walcott, who really should have done better with his effort. A Cazorla effort whizzed over the bar, while Giroud’s woeful run of form continued as he failed to make any sort of shot on target having been played in by Ozil.
Ramsey had a couple of efforts, one which deflected right into the hands of Adrian, before another cross too went unharmed. Giroud was the culprit again when he failed to get on to the end of an Ozil ball through the West Ham penalty area. A Mikel Arteta volley just went past the post as the half drew to a close.
Arsenal were jolted early on in the second half. After Theo Walcott misplaced his pass, Kevin Nolan’s effort was spilled by Szczesny right into the path of Carlton Cole, who poked the ball past the Pole. The Hammers had taken the lead completely against the run of play.
James Tomkins handled the ball, but there was little he could do to avoid it, as Arsenal went in search of an equalizer. West Ham, on the other hand looked confident having taken the lead, and created some chances to race into a 2-0 lead. Joey O’Brien missed a header from close range, before the muscular Carlton Cole outmuscled Vermaelen but his left footed effort went just wide.
Joey O’Brien escaped a second yellow card after a harsh foul on Giroud, and was later was taken off. Arsenal were winning corners, but not capitalizing on any of them. Adrian then made a brilliant double save, first from Cazorla and then Ozil to maintain West Ham’s lead.
Aaron Ramsey then suffered a thigh strain, and worryingly had to be taken off, to be replaced by Lukas Podolski who had an instant impact on the game. Theo Walcott made it 1-1 on 68 minutes, cutting inside ans firing a left footed effort past Adrian. In all honesty, the goalkeeper should have done better with the tame shot, but Arsenal would take anything to get back in the game.
3 minutes later, Podolski supplied a cross from the left, and one of the shortest men on the pitch, Walcott jumped highest to head it in from close range, after it took a small deflection off James Tomkins. 2-1 Arsenal.
Arsenal were now gunning strong, and almost had a third, when Cazorla fed Podolski, but the German could only shoot straight at the keeper with little space to work around. It didn’t matter in the end, as moments later, Giroud held up the ball well for Podolski, who rifled in Arsenal’s 3rd of the night. Niklas Bendtner, on for Olivier Giroud, too almost added in the fun, but his right footed shot went just wide.
So, an all important victory that takes us to the top of a crazy Premier League season. With Liverpool losing 2-1 at the Etihad to Manchester City, the Gunners enjoy a narrow 1 point lead over City. Games are coming thick and fast, and 3 points against Newcastle will keep us top at the end of 2013.
Olivier Giroud has been disappointing of late, and while some may say he is good at hold up and link up play, the bottom line is, strikers are meant to score goals, and there haven’t been too many of that recently from the Frenchman. 8 days was a decent enough rest, but it is the confidence he seems to be lacking at the moment. Firepower up front is what the Gunners need in January now.
Apart from that, it was good to see Thomas Vermaelen put together a string of decent performances. The Belgian may have to make way for Koscielny soon enough, but it is heartening to see his displays. Ozil had an average night, and probably is still getting to grips with football during the festive period.
Walcott now has scored 4 goals in the last 3 games, with braces against Manchester City and West Ham. Goes to show how deep the squad is. Lukas Podolski too got one for himself, and the return of these two players will be vital for the rest of the season!
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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