Arsenal: Mannone, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Ramsey, Arteta, Gervinho, Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud. subs: Martinez, Koscielny, Santos, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin, Arshavin
News that the BFG would start with Kos dropping to the bench was greeted with good cheer from the Goonerati after Wednesday’s less than convincing CB performance. Would the blogs’ judgement be seen to be more accurate than last week’s cry to drop the BFG? Certainly with Carroll restored to the Hammers line-up a few extra inches might come in handy. The ex-Wales captain Aaron Ramsey was preferred to Coquelin for the Diaby spot and Olivier Giroud started as centre forward with a massive amount of well-wishing supporters willing him his first premier league goal.
A victory would see Arsene Wenger’s 350th 3 points in the Premier League.
Arsenal began the first half dominating possession. Pod had an early sighter in the 1st minute, quickly followed by Giroud nearly squeezing in a shot from the edge of the box, drawing a good save from Jaaskelainen.
Gibbs had an early cross fall short which became a feature of the first half, crosses either too short or too long from both flanks. West Ham barely touched the ball in the first five minutes.
On 6’ a sweeping Arsenal move started by Ramsey on the edge of his own area ended in a Cazorla shot and Arsenal corner. Meanwhile Mertesacker was continuing where he left off against the Light Blue Oilers – like a beacon of calmness. A superb tackle from the Teutonic tower in the Arsenal penalty area snuffed out a promising West Ham attack.
Arsenal lost their way for a few minutes with crosses going astray. On 17’ a Ramsey cross found the one claret and blue shirt surrounded by three yellow shirts. Santi began pulling the strings but the ball in the final third was lacking. A series of corners ensued, with Big Ollie nearly scoring with a bending effort from the edge of the area, blocked by Carroll. Each corner seemed to find Carroll’s head, the stats for his headers won throughout the game must have been huge.
West Ham’s first real attack ended in an expertly taken goal from Diame which left Mannone no chance. Ramsey was undone by a piece of trickery with Jenks outside him, leaving the Frenchman clear. Yet again Arsenal had had all the play but were 1 down – a familiar story.
On 28’ Diame committed a foul worthy of a 2nd yellow (he’d been booked for his goal celebration) but Phil Dowd waved away Arsenal protests led by Vermaelen. Nolan dived soon after and Dowd bought it hook, line and sinker. West Ham’s only tactic seemed the hoof upfield to the big Geordie pony tail. Not a long ball team, my a*se.
A couple of corners saw the Hammers threaten, Carroll heading straight at the keeper and then launching himself at Mannone who received no protection from the ref. At the other end Santi was buzzing like a yellow hornet. A Gibbs cross was flicked on by the BFG and Big Ollie was inches away from that first elusive Prem goal.
The 41st minute saw that longed-for moment finally arrive. A magnificent driven cross from Podolski was met by a lunge at full stretch from Giroud. At last a well-deserved goal was rapturously received by players and fans alike.
The final minute of the first half saw Phil Dowd again buy a dive, this time from Noble and West Ham nearly profited from the resulting hoof into the Arsenal box. Half time arrived after a fine piece of covering work from Jenkinson, who grows in stature game by game.
The second half began and Don Vito did well under pressure from a corner. Gervinho hesitated when clear in the box and Big Ollie just failed to find Rambo on the burst.
By the 50th minute it was all possession football from the Gunners with the claret and blue bus well and truly parked. The masticating walrus looked somewhat relieved that the West Ham ‘academy’ was still in the game.
On 53’, Santi plucked the ball out of the sky, drove forward and was unlucky to see his efforts end in another poor cross from Gibbs. Kieran was substituted soon after with another knock to be replaced by Andre ‘ he drives how he wants’ Santos. For some reason the phrase ‘not shy of a pie’ (thanks Rhyle) entered my head and immediately made me smile.
Gervinho then gave the ball away and only a fine challenge from our captain stemmed the West Ham break. From the resulting throw-in, Jarvis skied the ball over the bar after yet another Carroll flick on. This was the first time I remember Jarvis being on the pitch. He saw more of the ball on the ground with a relegated Wolves side than he did playing for West Ham today.
The 61st minute saw Arsenal’s second substitution, Walcott for Gervinho. Definitely a good call, our Mekon had not had one of his better days. A tactical substitution on the hour, whatever next?
Andre Santos looked at home immediately, pinging passes backwards and forwards with Cazorla and dispossessing Nolan when West Ham did break. The game was becoming an end to end affair with chances at both ends. A stunning move from the Gunners ended in a rather lame attempt at a back heel pass from Theo but his impact was proving crucial. Carroll should have scored at the other end when Mannone came but was beaten to the ball. No Arsenal defender was in sight.
Santi missed a great chance on 67’ and then combined with the Pod but the resulting effort was blocked. Mertesacker made an excellent tackle on Nolan at the other end and it seemed for a horrible moment that he was injured again. Thankfully he seemed to run it off.
A penalty appeal was waved away before Podolski drew a fumbled save from Jaaskelainen. A series of Arsenal corners built the pressure mounting on the West Ham goal, including a delightful turn and left foot cross from Mr Cazorla.
In the 76th minute the boys in red and white got their just desserts when Theo coolly finished off a perfectly weighted ball from Giroud. Another goal celebration booking followed. Did anyone give a flying f*ck, I don’t think so.
A couple of minutes after the goal Nolan missed a great chance for an equaliser. Arsenal shut up shop? – not a hope in hell. Theo had a good chance to the far post, then the BFG swivelled and turned in the area as if he was auditioning for Strictly Come Dancing, his shot deflected for yet another corner.
The third Arsenal goal was just sublime. On 83’ a little touch inside by Theo and Santi unleashed a bending, dipping drive with the outside of his left foot and the Away Boys went berserk. What a goal!
Koscielny came on for Podolski on 85’ just before Mannone was forced into a great save from Matt Taylor. Santi produced the pass of the game reversing to Giroud but the keeper managed to block the Frenchman’s effort. There was still time for another blocked shot from Cazorla. The Away Boys now confirming our magnificent Man of the Match with a non-stop rendition of ‘Oh, Santi Cazorla’ .
What a fabulous result, three points earned with a skilful and hard-working performance. And what a superb way to enter another absurd international break in this exciting season.
Mannone – Made a few fine saves and stood up to the usual Fat Sam tactics at corners and free-kicks……7
Mertesacker – Solid and a calming influence. Vermaelen seemed twice the player alongside the BFG……8
Vermaelen – Much improved from our captain. Benefitted from playing with an experienced partner…….8
Jenkinson – Excellent again from the Corporal. The commentator’s description of Jenks as ‘rangy’ made me laugh ….8
Gibbs – Another fine performance ended early with a hopefully minor injury. Needs to improve his crossing…..7
Arteta – Tick tock tick tock…….8
Ramsey – Rambo produced a mature performance linking well with Arteta and Cazorla ……8
Cazorla – Magnificent. A real delight to see a player with such a huge smile on his face bring smiles to countless others’ faces…….9
Podolski – Lukas worked extremely hard again and his assist for Giroud’s goal was superb …..8
Giroud – Off the mark with a great effort, Big Ollie troubled the West Ham defence the whole game. He is growing into the Premiership quite nicely, thank you …..8
Gervinho – Not Gerv’s best performance but again worked his socks off in the Arsenal cause….7
Santos – 56′ – Settled in immediately and looked completely at home….8
Walcott – 61′ – Brilliant impact sub cameo from Theo. Found space and made crucial contributions…..8
Koscielny – 85′ – Brought on to secure the victory…..7
Written by chas