West Ham 1 Arsenal 3: The Gunners Coast to Victory as Giroud Breaks his Duck
After witnessing Manchester City and Chelsea set the pace with resounding victories over Sunderland and Norwich respectively, nothing less than a victory would have sufficed for the Gunners as they continued to chase the leading pack.
Arsene Wenger made a couple of changes from the squad that did just enough to seal a win over Olympiakos. Per Mertesacker was reinstated in defence, Aaron Ramsey got the nod ahead of Francis Coquelin and Olivier Giroud returned back to the starting XI with the Ox sacrificed.
Arsenal drew first blood when Lukas Podolski blasted a tame effort wide off the mark and this was followed with a Giroud shot that hit the side netting. Giroud was getting into dangerous positions but his end product was blocked countless times by the opposition.
Against the run of play, Mark Noble spread play to the left hand side to release McCartney. The fullback found some space in between Carl Jenkinson and Mertesacker, delivering a teasing ball for Mohamed Diame. The Senegalese midfielder made mince meat of Ramsey before curling a superb strike past Vito Mannone to put the Hammers one goal to the good.
Ramsey tried to atone for his defensive lapse on the other end of the pitch but his effort was wayward to say the least. Diame scythed down Mikel Arteta with a rash lounge worthy of a booking, but Phil Dowd kept his cards in his pocket, as he had already brandished a yellow card to the Senegalese midfielder courtesy of his celebration.
Kieran Gibbs sent in a cross that was flicked goalwards by Mertesacker but Giroud failed to connect with the ball. When it seemed as if it was going to be one of those days for Giroud, the striker fashioned a chance for himself when he teed up Podolski before darting to the box, only to receive an inch-perfect cross from the German to level the contest for his team.
Giroud’s celebration had a perfect blend of elation and relief which caused him to grab Podolski’s head in a position no different from the act he performed with Matt Debuchy. Thankfully, Giroud hugged Prinz Poldi with the rest of his teammates and no kiss was seen anywhere. #phew
With basically the last attack of the first half, Noble lofted in a cross that was flicked into the danger area by Andy Carroll. With Jenkinson culpable for ball watching, West Ham’s skipper, Kevin Nolan, didn’t punish the Gunners as his shot skewed wide.
The second half was much more open than the first and we witnessed end to end both stuff both teams. A Jenkinson error sent Matt Jarvis on the clear, but his cross was intercepted by Mannone. Within seconds, Arsenal launched a counter attack with Podolski spearheading the move but Gibbs cross from Poldi’s cushioned pass was erratic.
That was Gibbo’s last contribution as he was withdrawn for Andre Santos after picking up a suspected thigh injury. There were more gruesome scenes in Upton Park as Noble’s pass sent Ricardo Vaz Te through but Mannone did enough to claim the ball at the cost of a clash with the forward’s trailing leg. However, Vaz Te landed awkwardly on the turf and it has been reported that he dislocated his shoulder.
Gervinho has been a phenom for Arsenal this season but the deployment of Giroud to the centre forward position saw the Ivorian return to the wings. After a somewhat disappointing display, Gervinho was replaced by Theo “Sign the Ting” Walcott.
Walcott’s first telling contribution to the game was to use his ass to block a Santi Cazorla shot but he reacted quickly with an attempted back-heeled pass to Giroud. The Frenchman’s sliding shot slammed the side netting.
West Ham almost grabbed the lead when Andy Carroll jumped higher than Mannone from a cross but his header glanced wide. With Arsenal on the back foot, the Gunners’ defensive frailties were exposed when Nolan was unmarked on the edge of the area. With a gaping goal in his sights, Per Mertesacker popped up from nowhere to execute a Per-fect Merte-ception to keep his team in the contest.
Arsenal went ahead when Giroud sent Walcott through with a sumptuous pass, allowing the forward to pick his spot before placing the ball past Jussi Jaaskelainen. Unlike Giroud that was this close to kissing Podolski when he scored, Walcott decided to celebrate his goal with the away Arsenal fans and got a yellow card for that act.
The usually dependable and clinical Nolan was wasteful again as he fired a left-footed volley over after some work from Diame in the edge of the area. The next goal was going to be the most important and both sides went for the kill.
Despite being a colossus at the back, Mertesacker had a half chance when he turned a defender on his blind side before firing a shot that was deflected off for a corner. The BFG is still on the hunt for his first Arsenal goal but I’m pretty sure that the BFG will get his Premier League goal before Mikel Obi that has notched up 163 League games and he’s yet to score.
The match clincher arrived when Walcott showed great determination to win the ball and tee up Santi Cazorla that showed off his ambidexterity with a splendid left-footed volley that gave Jaakelainen no chance in Hell.
Ramsey shoved off challenges from a couple of Hammers before fashioning a chance for Giroud but the Frenchman’s first timed shot killed an unfortunate bird in the sky. Wenger brought on Koscielny to solidify Arsenal’s rearguard allowing Mertesacker to drop into a sweeper role.
Matt Taylor replaced the injured Vaz Te and almost offered West Ham a glimmer of hope when he fired a screamer goalwards but Mannone was on hand to make an outstanding save. Santi Cazorla wowed the West Ham back line before sending a defense-splitting pass to Giroud but the Frenchman’s effort was saved by the Finn in goal.
The win propelled Arsenal to fifth place, just three points off Manchester City in second place.
Mannone’s (7.5) resolve was tested and he performed admirably. He had a few knacks for his troubles as well.
Jenkinson (7.0) had another good outing. He also balanced his offensive and defensive play perfectly.
Gibbs (6.5) was erratic with his distribution and also picked up a thigh strain that might keep him out for a while.
Mertesacker (7.5) made several vital interceptions and coordinated the defense.
Vermaelen (7.0) was more disciplined in his defending and he didn’t repeat his shenanigans of the Olympiakos game.
Arteta (7.0) maintained the balance between attack and defense. He also worked very hard in the middle of the park.
Ramsey (7.5) was very industrious in midfield and put up a very confident performance after losing his Welsh captaincy this week.
Cazorla (8.0) scored a well-taken goal and was a constant thorn in the flesh of the West Ham all game long.
Gervinho (6.5) had recently set very high standards with his performances but it’s fair to say that he was below-par in the game.
Podolski (7.5) supplied an inch-perfect assist for Giroud and worked tirelessly on the left hand side.
Giroud (8.5) worked really hard for his team, getting into encouraging position and finally got some relief by scoring his first Premier League goal. Hopefully, the floodgates will open.
Andre Santos (7.0) won a few tackles and did well in Gibbs’ stead.
Walcott (7.5) made a difference for his side with a goal and an assist. Sign the ting!!!!!!!
Koscielny (7.0) didn’t put a foot wrong when he came in late on.
Arsene Wenger had a lot to say in his post-match interview, and trust me, it’s worth a read.
Despite flying high at the start of the season, Sam Allardyce’s West Ham where brought down to Earth by Arsene Wenger’s Red Army. The international break beckons and we can only wish for no broken bones or limbs for any Gunner.
I’m so happy for Giroud and he can feel free to kiss Matt Debuchy again if he scores for France – besides, Wenger has banned kisses, hugs and handshakes.
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