As expected, Arsene made some changes to the starting line up. Interestingly, the defenders got no respite and I doubt if they will at any point this season. Vela, Wilshere and Merida were handed starts along with Silvestre and Fabianski.
Overall the team looked like it should win comfortably as the Hammers didn’t really offer any genuine threat. The game, for most parts, turned out to be a scrappy affair fought largely in the central third with both sides lacking any incisiveness in the attacking areas.
I thought Arsenal were a little nervous at the start and the front players dropped too deep with Wilshere and Vela spending more time on the half way line instead of making runs behind the West Ham defense. These players have not played regularly and it showed as the movement and passing never got off the ground. The young stars failed to impress as the physical demands of playing a premier league team proved a shade above their level.
West Ham were able to press high up the field as neither team created any clear chances. It all changed in the first half stoppage time when Gallas was slow in stepping up allowing Diamanti a clear run at goal. Fabianski should have done much better with the save as the ball went under his arm.
Even with a 1-0 score line West Ham were under pressure as Wenger had a couple of first team players on the bench while Zola had already played his best available line up. The second half saw Arsenal play with more urgency without really creating the final ball.
It all changed with the double substitution just after the hour mark. Diaby and Nasri restored the first team feel and the Gunners started knocking on the door. It was only a matter of time before we got a goal.
The first goal came from a lovely passing move that started deep in our half with Ramsey collecting from Vermaelen. Rambo also applied a finish that would have made any striker proud. The second came from a brilliant cross from the left by Vela who looked far more dangerous after the change in personnel. Eduardo beat Upson for the header and showed that a lack of height can be countered by technique.
We could have scored more and I was really delighted to see the team continue the search for the third giving the hosts no glimpse of a recovery. In the recent games we have also seen Arsenal push four or five men into the opposition box and it’s starting to yield results. In this game Song and Diaby looked like two tigers waiting to pounce on the opposition at every opportunity. The speed with which they moved the ball from the half way line towards the opposition penalty box was fascinating to see. I have always believed that we can trouble any team if we can keep the tempo high and hopefully the players are starting to believe that they can do it.
Fabianski: Looked nervous and was partially at fault for the goal. Also made a couple of decent saves. I think Arsene needs to work on the keepers’ confidence as the problem is common to all three.
Sagna: Played as expected, one of our most consistent, even if not remarkable, performers.
Gallas: Partially at fault for the goal, had a good game otherwise.
Vermaelen: Another quality game.
Silvestre: Could have done better in attack.
Song: Was playing a more defensive role initially and transitioned smoothly into attack later on.
Ramsey: Was missing in the early parts except for a couple of long balls for Vela. Came into his own after the changes
Merida: Had a night to forget. Looked nervous and was woeful with his set-piece delivery. He has a lot more quality than this and needs more regular games to develop.
Wilshere: Drifted in far too often, lost possession in dangerous areas and made many other mistakes. I think it’s good that he had such an experience as it will help him keep his feet on the ground.
Vela: Somewhat like Ramsey, came into his own after the substitutions and picked up a couple of assists.
Eduardo: Still needs time. This goal should give him some confidence.
Nasri: Helped us raise the tempo and shift a gear.
Diaby: West Ham found him unplayable. Should have scored.