West Ham United 1 (Kouyate 54) – Arsenal 2 (Cazorla 41, Welbeck 44)
Man of the Match – Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)
The average human life expectancy is about 67. If you take out all the Arsenal fans from the equation, I am pretty sure, that number will rise to about 70. With so many heart stopping moments throughout the season, I can vouch for the fact that the life of an Arsenal fan is always on the edge of a cardiovascular breakdown.
Take for example, the game against Liverpool. 2-1 down and facing an onslaught of Liverpool attacks. Having stood their ground for 30 odd minutes, Arsenal conceded in the 97th minute. Now, Liverpool have scored against us in the 101st minute too, remember, crushing our little hopes of title glory in 2011. Then, the QPR game. Down to 10 men, we somehow are leading 2-0, and then concede a penalty and goal with 12 minutes to go. What do you get? Near goals, goal line clearances and even a valid penalty shout. And, then there is the West Ham game, which was a roller coaster ride.
With Laurent Koscielny back in the line up, the manager decided to give Kieran Gibbs a rest, moved Nacho Monreal to left-back to accommodate the Frenchman. In midfield, Tomas Rosicky was absent, apparently due to a strain, which meant Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had to fill in alongside Mathieu Flamini. Francis Coquelin also started, with Giroud absent and the manager looking to provide more protection to the defence against a physical Hammers side.
From the word go, like all Sam Allardyce teams, West Ham started to flood the Arsenal goal with crosses. It seemed like they had taken the lead, when Alex Song, yes, Alex Song; the same bloke who we sold to Barcelona in 2012, but in fact he went on a hiding to his native Cameroon only to resurface in the claret of West Ham; had the ball in the back of the net from a corner that wasn’t properly cleared. He didn’t celebrate of course, respect and all of that, but when the linesman disallowed the goal because there were couple of West Ham players in an offside position, and possibly interfering with play, Song went berserk protesting at the denial of his goal.
West Ham were making all the early running, before an Arsenal chance was spurned as Alexis latched on to a Cazorla free-kick, but Laurent Koscielny too went for it, and it went behind for a goal kick. Some sloppy defending from Mertesacker forced Szczesny into a save from Kouyate and then Andy Carroll escaped the attentions of Mathieu Debuchy but couldn’t really direct his effort on target. Arsenal were then reduced to a host of corners, none of which bore anything fruitful. West Ham, on the other hand were providing the central defensive partnership of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny a real challenge through Andy Carroll, with a barrage of crosses.
Carroll received a yellow for arming Debuchy. In the 38th minute, West Ham had their best chance to take a lead. From a blocked free-kick, a cross was played into an unmarked James Tomkins, but the defender’s effort sailed into the crowd. West Ham were made to pay for the miss. Winston Reid seemed to have gotten the ball away from Cazorla but tripped the Spanish midfielder among a bundle of legs to concede a penalty. Cazorla stepped up and scored the penalty past Adrian to make it 1-0.
And, less than 3 minutes earlier, some fine interplay between Mathieu Debuchy and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain resulted in the latter crossing in for a simple Welbeck tap in from a yard out. 2-0 Arsenal at half-time. West Ham immediately got one back when former Aston Villa and Liverpool winger Stewart Downing shot wide, before Alexis saw his shot go just wide, with Adrian diving in the opposite direction.
Arsenal had the first attempt on goal in the second half, a rather disappointing long range effort from Debuchy, that rolled wide, before West Ham pulled one back. After a cleared corner, the ball came to Tomkins, whose cross was met by a towering Kouyate. The ball hit his head and then Debuchy’s head, and then looped into the back of the net, with Szczesny stranded. Arsenal’s response was to attack, and attack they did.
A darting run from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain set up Cazorla, but the Spaniard’s shot was saved by Adrian. Mathieu Debuchy, then headed just over the bar, as Arsenal looked to restore their 2 goal lead. Senegalese striker Diafra Sakho almost connected with a cross at the far post, before being replaced by Ecuadorian striker Enner Valencia. West Ham increased their attacking frequency with more crosses, but Mertesacker and Szczesny put up commanding displays.
Arsenal were forced to attack from counters. On one counter, Welbeck beat Tomkins for raw pace, but couldn’t direct his left footed shot on target. Alexis then shot, but was deflected wide. The Chilean then set up Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but his header landed straight in the hands of Adrian. Arsenal created some more opportunities, but Adrian was having none of it. First, he saved an Alexis effort, before Welbeck threw away his chance, shooting over, when he should have scored.
Arsene Wenger sensed the need of defensive reinforcement and bought on Kieran Gibbs in place of Danny Welbeck. Adrian again saved, this time from Cazorla, and the diminutive Spaniard’s rebound effort went over the bar. Chamberlain then shot wide and then should have had a penalty when he was fouled inside the box. Kevin Nolan tested Szczesny with a long range effort, as West Ham racked up the pressure in the dying moments. There were penalty calls, nervous clearances and the final touch of the game came from Enner Valencia, whose header went just over the back post.
Arsenal survived to gain all 3 points at the Boleyn Ground, which has been a happy hunting ground in recent years. 6 points in the space of 2 days, leaves Arsenal, level on points with Southampton, but behind on goal difference, and now ahead of West Ham. The Gunners visit the Saints next on New Years’.
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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