More than two thirds of the possession, 21 shots, 11 on target, 3 excellent goals, 3 well deserved points, and a clean sheet to boot.
Arsenal made a strong start and dominated the game from kick-off. The first few minutes were a repeat of the Ipswich game with the ball getting to the opposition penalty box but the final pass lacking.
The movement up front was excellent and one could sense the first goal was only a matter of time.
It came early enough in the 13th minute quite like the Birmingham visit. Just as in that game, Van Persie was the man to score.
Wilshere did well to control a high ball but West Ham must be wondering how the youngster found so much space just outside their box. He played it wide to Theo who also had some space and time. Walcott can be very dangerous when he is not double teamed and showed a good football brain as he didn’t rush. Theo waited for a run and played the ball square with the right amount of pace. It wasn’t a hopeful cross but a very controlled pass.
Nasri, after making a run from the left to the centre, played a wonderful dummy – oh, how I have been missing that! – and Van Persie creamed it first time with his chocolate leg. It was a brilliant finish as the space between the defenders attempted block and the post wasn’t that big.
West Ham were forced into coming out and that allowed Arsenal more space in attacking areas. It led to a number of half chances – Theo went clear down the middle after a delightful pass by Cesc but the defender did well to put him off, Wilshere showed excellent close control on the edge of the box but his final touch let him down, Cesc and RvP set up Song on the break but his shot was blocked and then saved, Nasri ran down the middle attracting three defenders and setting RvP through but the Dutchman’s strike hit the post, and there were numerous other occasions that led to corners and clearances. Many of these chances came from rapid counter-attacks.
While Arsenal were threatening the West Ham goal they were also threatening their own goal with some dodgy defending, especially by Djourou and Eboue.
West Ham had in the initial minutes tried to attack Arsenal with aerial balls down the left. Koscielny and Clichy dealt with it really well and the Hammers shifted that tactic to their left. The hosts got a lot of joy as Djourou was indecisive while Eboue was often out of position and slow in tracking back.
As I’d mentioned in the preview, the right side of the defence was weak and Song had to put in a lot of work to cover for the defenders. Even that was not enough as West Ham got some shots away.
One soft back pass from Djourou sold Szczesny short and Cole got in but the Keeper made himself big to make the save. There was gap between his feet but the West Ham striker was not alert to the opening.
From that save the ball fell to Boa Morte who found Hines but the youngster fired over from a tight angle.
Arsenal doubled their lead in the 40th minute. Fabregas was tackled but showed the fighting spirit to lunge and win the ball back. El Capitan squared it to Clichy who found Van Persie with acres of space. The striker’s first touch was not what he wanted and the ball sped towards the goal line. RvP chased it and squared it back with just the right weight and an angle that kept it out of the reach of the Keeper. Theo had space and was alert to the possibility. He was able to smash it home from close range with his left foot while Bridge was caught napping.
Immediately at the other end West Ham went close. Sears fired in a good cross and Cole got in ahead of a sluggish Djourou. The striker’s header went away for a corner as the Swiss defender just did enough to get in the way.
The Gunners started the second half brightly with three or four snapshots in the first five minutes.
In the 51st minute West Ham got a free-kick just outside the Arsenal box. Bridge struck it well but RvP managed to jump and head it out for a corner. Szczesny was stranded and but for the striker’s intervention it would have been a goal.
After this the Hammers showed some fight while Arsenal eased into second gear. Neither side was able to create a decent chance for a while.
Just after the hour mark, Szczesny was forced into a save after a cross by Sears with some weird spin was headed towards the goal. From the resulting corner the ball bounced across the face of the Arsenal goal before the Keeper finally claimed it.
Arsenal had improved their right side defence marginally. They weren’t completely in control but always got enough bodies behind the ball with the players showing genuine desire to defend.
The game was settled in the 76th minute when Bridge fouled Walcott to concede a penalty. Van Persie placed it perfectly and with pace. Green guessed right but didn’t get anywhere near the ball.
Far too often people talk about bringing in new players or big names to survive a relegation fight but based on this performance by Bridge West Ham might be wasting a lot of money on his wages.
The last fifteen minutes were a keep ball exercise for Arsenal as West Ham lost their willingness to fight.
Szczesny: Couple of good saves, struggled a bit with his decision making, will be thankful he wasn’t really tested despite some mistakes by defenders in front of him.
Eboue: very poor in the first half, improved his positioning and tracking in the second but still had some weak moments. Didn’t offer enough in attack and doesn’t seem to have the right understanding with Walcott.
Djourou: Very shaky in the first half. Decision making was extremely poor. Struggled physically as well in an uncharacteristic manner. Improved a bit after he stopped letting the ball go over his head.
Koscielny: was excellent in reading the game and making interceptions/tackles. Didn’t give the attackers much time on the ball.
Clichy: Did well in attack and defence even though some crosses were poor. Good pass to RvP that led to the second goal, also played some wonderful long passes.
The defending on the right side was unnerving in the first half but the players covered for their teammates’ mistakes and West Ham didn’t have enough quality to punish Arsenal.
Song: another big game from the Cameroonian. Played well like a box-to-box midfielder. Was almost always present when an extra body was needed in attack or defence. Showed good physical presence and dealt with the pressure well.
Cesc: I loved the way he dropped deep time and again and the way he brought the ball out from defence even when under pressure from a couple of opponents. Played some excellent balls but not as many as we’ve come to expect. Never stopped chasing the ball and his work rate was phenomenal.
Wilshere: good game from the youngster even though his touch let him down at times. He is very good on the ball but has to do more off it.
The midfield completely dominated the play, moved the ball well, and maintained positional discipline for large periods of the game.
Walcott: He is very dangerous when he gets space and West Ham made the mistake of giving him that. Was alert for the goal, good finish, intelligent cross for the assist, won the penalty late on, could have done a bit more to help the defence in the first half but overall an excellent game.
RvP: MotM in my book. Excellent movement and awareness, lovely technique, worked hard to press the opponents, good understanding with Nasri, Cesc, and Theo.
Nasri: was really threatening every time he drifted in, good defensive contribution on the left, good diagonal runs, might have scored on another day.
The attackers stretched the defence and their movement was almost telepathic at times. Finishing was clinical and they did their defensive jobs fairly well.
Subs: Came on after the game was over.