West Ham 1 Arsenal 3: Walcott Sends the Gunners to the Summit
Upton Park (Premier League)
West Ham: Cole (46′) – Arsenal: Walcott (68′, 71′), Podolski (79′)
The Gunners weren’t in a good run of form coming into this heated clash against their East London rivals but it was a ground they had recorded a victory last season, so it seemed as if this had to be the game the endless run without victories was going to come to a halt. The manager brought Santi Cazorla back to the starting lineup in place of Tomas Rosicky.
West Ham were the quickest out of the blocks when Mark Noble executed a perfectly planned training move with Matt Jarvis but his cross was dealt with by Wojciech Szczesny in goal. On the other end of the pitch, Bacary Sagna waltzed with the ball before swinging a cross that was missed by Olivier Giroud…it turned out to be a familiar sight in the entirety of the game.
Noble fired a free kick goalwards from a somewhat acute angle but Szczesny was on hand to make a good save. Mesut Ozil linked up with Aaron Ramsey with a deft backheeled effort but the Welsh midfielder dallied on the ball and surrendered possession shortly afterwards.
Arsenal showed off some intricate passing play with Santi Cazorla teeing up Kieran Gibbs on the left. The fullback drilled the ball into the danger area but James Collins was alert to make a block with Giroud on the prowl. Walcott sent a corner that was headed to safety by the West Ham defense. Cazorla nodded the ball towards goal but Adrian made a fine save.
Ozil and Ramsey exchanged passes before the Welshman threaded a dinked pass to Walcott but the speedster missed when it seemed easy to score. Cazorla then blasted a shot over with his left foot and shortly after that, Ozil cushioned a through ball to Giroud in behind the defense but his shot was an aberration. For a striker low on confidence, that miss certainly didn’t help his cause.
Ozil and Cazorla started to influence the game more and the Spanish magician chipped the ball to the German maestro but his near post cut back needed the slightest of touches to be guided into the West Ham goal but Giroud wasn’t in the same wavelength with his teammates. Mikel Arteta made a rear foray forward and blasted a shot that missed by a lick of paint. Late in the first half, Ozil found Gibbs on his left and his drilled effort wasn’t reached by Giroud.
At the start of the second and against the run of play, Kevin Nolan fired a shot that was spilled by Szczesny and Carlton Cole punished the keeper for his error.
Matt Jarvis fired a shot that was saved by Szczesny. On the other end, Sagna crossed the ball to Giroud but he missed yet again. Joe Cole made some space for himself before sending a pass to Mohamed Diame. The Senegalese midfielder lofted a cross for Joey O’ Brien but his header was wide off the mark.
Adrian pulled a double save from Cazorla and Ozil and many fans believed that it was going to be one of those nights…then it happened, Ramsey picked up an injury and signaled to the bench that his team was up. Wenger brought on Lukas Podolski and drafted Cazorla to the middle. Within minutes of this tactical switch, Cazorla found Walcott whose tame shot somehow found its way through Adrian to level the contest.
Shortly afterwards, Walcott got in on the scoring act again, latching unto Podolski’s perfectly-timed cross to send the Arsenal fans into raptures.
Cazorla chipped the ball over the defense and suddenly Podolski found himself one on one with Adrian. However, the German blasted his shot straight at the goalie. He wasn’t to be denied a second time when he used his thunderbolt of a left foot to blast in a cushioned pass from Giroud.
Wenger brought in Mathieu Flamini to add steel in midfield while the world’s best striker, Nicklas Bendtner, replaced a poor Giroud late on. Within moments of getting into the pitch, Bendtner fired a shot that wasn’t far from the target.
The final whistle was like music to the ears of Arsenal fans as they had returned to the summit of the Premier League. Liverpool went on to lose to Manchester City which signifies that if the Gunners get a win against Newcastle on Sunday, they’d begin the new year at the top.
Happy times are back again but the Gunners resolve will be tested against a resurgent Magpies in a rich vein of form.
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