Well, if someone had offered us a nail-biting 2-1 win at Upton Park while the top three all dropped points I think it is fairly safe to assume we would have collectively ripped their arm off.
Just five minutes in we had to survive a disallowed goal when Alex Song volleyed home from outside the box, and co-commentator Tony Gale reasoned that the goal should have stood because Wojciech Szczesny would not have saved it even if not unsighted by three offside West Ham players in front of him, one of whom hurdled the shot. We do get some idiots employed as so-called experts.
Shortly after came a penalty scare when Sakho went down after backing into Mathieu Debuchy. Replays of both incidents proved that in fact the locals were mistaken and in fact the officials did know what they were doing.
The Hammers were clearly up for the match, and so it has to be said were we. It was very pleasing to watch the visitors more than happy to mix and match a silky passing game with some cold steely determination.
The first warning for West Ham came when Alexis Sanchez headed wide, and only due to the intervention of Laurent Koscielny, equally keen to get involved. At the other end Carroll shoved Mathieu Debuchy out of the way to set up a shooting opportunity but his effort was blocked by Koscielny.
The tackles were flying in which if we are being honest made it even more compelling viewing. Adrian and Szczesny exchanged saves before Tomkins volleyed over when set up by Downing.
Arsenal seized control of the match in less than three amazing minutes towards the end of the first-half. Santi Cazorla forced his way into the box and was upended by Reid. Today there was no concession of the resulting penalty and the playmaker of the moment sent the otherwise impressive Adrian the wrong way. Then Cazorla and Debuchy combined to set Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain free in the right half of the box and from his cross Danny Welbeck applied the tap-in for 0-2.
Before the whistle had blown the amazing Alexis came close to grabbing a third. Arsenal had clearly capitalised on their purple patch.
Less than ten minutes after the restart the Irons were back in it. Tomkins cross was headed home by Kouyate, after Per Mertesacker had denied Carroll with a superb headed clearance under pressure, and an already gripping contest became a more tense watch.
The Ox released Cazorla and only Adrian will be able to tell you how he saved it. From the resulting corner Debuchy headed inches over. Danny Welbeck carried the ball from his own half and just missed with his attempt to seal the points. It was typical of Arsenal’s dangerous counter-attacking throughout the half.
Again Adrian denied Arsenal the clincher with astonishing stops from an Ox header and an Alexis toe-poke, although he was grateful to see Welbeck blaze over when clear on goal. He was the busier of the goalkeepers overall, but Szczesny was also far from redundant as the hosts cranked up the pressure in the closing stages.
Arsenal were well-served by the experience and youth of Mathieu Flamini and Francis Coquelin at the base of the midfield. Flamini hasn’t had the best of seasons but has improved of late and is somewhere close to the player we knew. His young partner, recalled prematurely from a loan spell at Charlton, relished the physical battle and emerged from the match with a late yellow card and no little credit.
Desperate to grab a point, West Ham pushed on in the five added minutes as Arsenal retreated into a defensive shell. Nolan was denied by Szczesny and Valencia headed over but Arsenal had done enough and held out for three deserved points from a tremendous game. Arsene summed up his team’s performance afterwards.
“From ‘keeper to up front, everybody had a fantastic game today… When you have the defenders back that makes a change.”
We end 2014, a very mixed year indeed, in fifth place in the table, and will climb another place if we can start 2015 with a win at Southampton, above us only on goal difference after holding Chelsea 1-1. Here’s to continued spirited performances in the new year.