We come to our second London derby of the week, after our good win against QPR away on the Monday. Arsenal come to Upton Park of the back of a good win in the Champions League. That was not the first difference of the day. The ground was full and the atmosphere was fantastic.
Most WHU fans were optimistic about this game, as Arsenal have shown some weakness this season against the dead ball, and they are missing their talismanic striker Van Persie, following his exit to Old Trafford over the summer. Personally i was concerned they may end up starting Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott, and just kill us for pace.
Arsene helped me out by not starting either, but putting Podolski on the wing instead isn’t a bad replacement I suppose !
The game got off as expected with Arsenal piling in the pressure, with constant incisive passing. But as usual with Arsenal had no finishing quality (it was out on the wing as usual – this would frustrate me massively if I was a fan of our North London neighbours).
WHU’s forays into the opponents box were limited, but they weathered the storm at the beginning to fight back into the game. However it was still against the run of play, in the 21st minute, when Diame shrugged off Ramsey on the edge of their box, to absolutely rocket in the first goal of his Hammers career from an obtuse angle. Game on.
Then normal service resumed, but it looked like WHU would hold out the first half for a dream start. Andy Carroll was winning everything in the air, and as usual was bringing in other players. The improvement on Carlton Cole cannot be disputed now, and we need to do everything we can in January to hold onto the big Geordie.
Arsenal seemed to find space everywhere, especially on their left, and just before half time Poldolski got a cross in for Giroud to push home on the front post, to bring Arsenal level. Nolan went close to getting onto the end of cross to put us 2-1 up at the break, but just didn’t have the pace.
One all at half time, and although both teams were probably content, I’m sure Arsenal were the happier, having got back into the game at a crucial time.
The second half was more of the same, as the Arsenal pressure just got bigger and bigger. The space they find in the middle of the park is amazing, and WHU couldn’t close them down. However, WHU had some chances with Carroll coming close with a header going just past the post. At the 60 minutes mark Walcott came on, and didn’t look to clever to be honest. Until about 15 minutes later when Diame got robbed of the ball, Walcott got on the end of it with no one near him, and cooly slotted home to put the Gunners ahead. During that 15 Vaz Te halfheartedly got into a tangle with Mannone, and got rewarded with a dislocated shoulder. Also Demel, who was playing well, went off with knock to be replaced by Tompkins, who must be in for a shout for a next game, as we are losing defenders like Man U at the moment.
This put WHU into a bit of a spin, and the third looked imminent. But after 5 minutes we seemed to be making a fist of it again, with Nolan having a couple of chances that he didn’t finish. With 7 to go Carzola drilled in a 20 yrd screamer to end WHU’s chances of at least one point, and close the game out for Arsenal.
So we end up 1-3 to Arsenal, and we learn the the Premier League is still 2 or 3 leagues in one. We lost the game in the middle, as we spent most of our time chasing shadows, we were just not quick enough. Jarvis was also found wanting on the wing against Kieran Gibbs, as was Vaz Te when we swapped about. Whether this is fitness or awareness, will be down to BFS to sort out.
But its not all doom and gloom for the Hammers. Carroll was fantastic, and Reid played well again, as did Diame (although some final ball passing wouldn’t go amiss). Nolan’s fitness was found out again. Also, if Noble thinks he has an England chance, he needs to stop trying and failing to deliver Gerrardesque hollywood balls, and concentrate on what he is good at. Maybe he could hit the club shop and get a few season reviews from the Scott Parker era.
So not too disappointed overall, and after the international break we have Southampton at home, which should be 3 points for WHU on current form.
MOTM: Carroll for WHU, but overall Cazorla ran the game from start to finish, and got a good goal at the end.