Apr 5th, 2017 by 'holic
As forecast on Tuesday Arsene Wenger was forced to pick Emiliano Martinez in goal with Gabriel drafted in for the injured skipper, Laurent Koscielny. Mohamed Elneny came in for Francis Coquelin but otherwise the team was the one that drew with Manchester City on Sunday. Matt Macey, the fourth choice goalkeeper, was recalled from Luton Town to take his place on the bench.
First to try his luck was Alexis, cutting in from the left flank to fire wide of the far post in the fourth minute. The same player tripped Noble two minutes later giving West Ham their first opportunity to cross the ball at Carroll. Fortunately they overhit the ball. They went closer from another free-kick soon after but Lanzini’s effort cleared the bar.
After Noble and Alexis traded off-target attempts a Hector Bellerin break in the fifteenth minute ended with captain for the night Theo Walcott testing Randolph. The goalkeeper saved comfortably.
Arsene Wenger and the home support were not happy to see Martin Atkinson wave away appeals for a penalty when Walcott was clearly pushed to the ground by Masuaku in the box. Just seconds later the refereee was quick to rightly show the yellow card to Bellerin for dragging down Antonio. The Spaniard seems to have lost a yard of pace since his last injury.
On the half hour Walcott found himself clear on the right hand side of the box but he hurried his effort and sliced it wide of the near post. Referee Atkinson drew a round of ironic applause when he awarded a free-kick for Ayew’s chopping down of Nacho Monreal, but turned away again when Danny Welbeck was clearly brought down after the ensuing free-kick. Finally he saw Lanzini’s bad challenge on Walcott and produced a yellow card.
Four minutes from the break West Ham blocked successive goal-bound efforts from Bellerin and Mohamed Elneny. From the corner that followed Welbeck’s header brought another save out of Randolph. Arsenal were finishing the half strongly and Randolph had to be brave to save at the feet of a flying Walcott. Alexis teed up an offside Ozil who struck the near post.
Carroll’s elbow in the face of Skhodran Mustafi in the two added minutes drew a furious reaction from his colleague Gabriel but no action from Atkinson, deservedly booed off as he made his way down the tunnel. It was a sour end to a half that had picked up after a slow start. Arsenal would have been disappointed not to be taking an advantage into the dressing room.
Less than five minutes after half-time Alexis found Ozil in the box but Collins last ditch lunge kept the game goal-less. Next to try his luck was Mustafi following a corner but his right-footed effort eased wide of the post. Arsenal were in control but not for the first time of late ponderous in attack. Kouyate sent Ozil crashing to ground and Atkinson just encouraged the German international to get up. That just made him angry. From the inside right channel on the edge of the box Ozil curled a left footer under the diving Randolph.
Arsenal 1-0 West Ham
The lead could have been doubled when Walcott wriggled through to put Welbeck in on goal, but Randolph atoned for his earlier error with a smart save. At the other end Mustafi was the next recipient of a yellow card for a lunge and despite his reaction I don’t think the big man could complain. With nearly half an hour remaining Carroll was hooked. To be fair he had been feeding on scraps all night.
Alexis and Ozil combined to set up a headed opportunity for Mohamed Elneny but his downward effort bounced into the arms of Randolph. On the brink of a fifth consecutive defeat the visitors sat deep and their lack of ambition cost them when Alexis and Ozil again combined to tee up Walcott’s calm sidefoot finish.
Arsenal 2-0 West Ham
A third was so close when a superbly lofted cross from Alexis was met by a galloping Bellerin but in his excitement the right-back steered his effort wide. Broken, West Ham appeared happy to let Arsenal have the ball in front of them and the Gunners were happy to play keep-ball up a series of blind alleys. Welbeck made way for Olivier Giroud in the 74th minute. Almost immediately a distracted Arsenal were woken up by Lanzini’s effort which drew a smart save out of Martinez. That was a tribute to the young man’s powers of concentration.
Byram’s awful challenge from behind on Sanchez as a through ball was played earned only a yellow card and more ironic cheers from a now cheerier crowd. A chorus Of the Rocky Rocastle song suggested the warring factions had put their differences to one side in support of the team. I was eighty miles away so somebody in the ground may correct that impression. I hope not.
We were denied what appeared to be another good penalty appeal for a crude challenge by Collins. Personally I had ceased to be surprised at anything that Atkinson did or did not give. The benefit of a two goal advantage perhaps? Walcott and the impressive Elneny were replaced by the returning duo, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Ox immediately set up Giroud for the strike of the night, a magnificent curling left footer from the inside-right channel inside the far post.
Arsenal 3-0 West Ham
Mr Atkinson’s selective vision did not extend to another Byram downing of Alexis so the young man remained on the pitch. Perhaps he wanted to be put out of his misery? To complete the evening Byram cleaned out Monreal in the box. Another blatant penalty turned down and the thug who committed the challenge remained on the pitch. It was a mystery to all in the ground and those watching on streams.
It’s got to be said that this is one of the worst West Ham teams of the Premier League years, so we shouldn’t over estimate our dominance tonight, but this performance surely has to restore a level of confidence and belief in the Gunners squad. The three points have kept the Arsenal on the fringe of the battle for Champions League places, but sterner tests lie in wait starting at Selhurst Park next Monday. Until then let’s enjoy this result and stay relaxed for a few days.
Here’s hoping, however, that the incompetent Atkinson has earned a week off, or was that his intention?