West Ham 1 Arsenal 2: The Gunners Win After Dogged Display
West Ham 1 (Kouyate 54′) – Arsenal 2 (Cazorla 41′, Welbeck 44′)
Following the disappointing draw against Liverpool, it was important to record a favorable result against QPR but it came at a cost, as the Gunners lost Olivier Giroud courtesy of a moment of sheer idiocy. With the West Ham game coming just two days after the QPR result, it was obvious that Arsene Wenger was going to rotate the squad to keep the lads fresh.
Laurent Koscielny made his long-awaited return to the team while Nacho Monreal took Kieran Gibbs place in the side. There was also a first start in two years for Francis Coquelin, that played alongside Mathieu Flamini in the heart of the midfield. Santi Cazorla manned the No. 10 role while Danny Welbeck returned to his favored center forward position with Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain providing support from the flanks.
West Ham drew first blood when Alex Song of all people smashed a shot that went through a pile of bodies with Wojciech Szczesny rooted to the spot. However, the linesman’s flag spared Arsenal’s blushes. Alexis did well to rob Song off the ball before instigating a counter attack with a pass to the Ox but that chance went begging. Kouyate was afforded a chance at goal but his tame curling effort was easy pickings for Szczesny. Andy Carroll ensured that his physical presence was felt when he bullied Matt Debuchy before blasting a wayward shot that was blocked by Koscielny. West Ham’s best chance of the game arrived when Stewart Downing clipped the ball to an unmarked James Tomkins but the defender side-footed his effort over the bar.
Arsenal struggled to gain a foothold of the game but they got their breakthrough when Steven Reid impeded Santi Cazorla in the box for a penalty. The Spanish magician picked himself up and sent his compatriot, Adrian, the wrong way to make it 1-0 to the Arsenal. Shortly after the restart, Ox showed good wingplay to evade his marker and drill a cut back that was tapped in by Welbeck. West Ham tried to response through Downing but his shot was wide. Afterwards, Ox got the better of Cresswell but he didn’t provide that killer final ball. Late on, Alexis marauded his way through a pile of bodies but his effort was blocked.
The Hammers attacked with intent in the second half and earned their reward when Tomkins cross was met by Kouyate but with a slight deflection from Debuchy Szczesny was left flat-footed as the ball crept into the net. Arsenal responded with the Ox making one of his trademark surging runs before teeing up Cazorla. The Spaniard blasted a goal-bound shot that was parried by Adrian. It was end to end stuff as Diafra Sakho was inches away from connecting with Kouyate’s cross.
Adrian turned up the style making brilliant saves from an Ox point-blank header and another chance from Alexis. Welbeck had the chance to make it three but he blasted his effort over the bar. Right at the death, Enner Valencia had a close header that looped over the bar and that was it as the pulsating encounter came to a close.
With two victories on the trot, the Gunners are now level on points with Southampton and just three points behind Manchester United in third place. With the Red devils visiting the dreaded Britannia Stadium, the Gunners will be hoping they drop more points, but they need to do their own bit at St. Mary’s Stadium on New Year’s day.