West Ham 1 – 3 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

The starting line-ups didn’t have any surprises. Mertesacker came in for Koscielny and Ramsey started over Coquelin.

There was a surprise in the way West Ham set up to play as the hosts sat off initially and invited pressure. Big Sam generally likes his teams to get at Arsenal when playing at home but it seemed he wasn’t confident enough of his side’s ability to defend if they pushed up, a concern that was justified in the second the half. The hosts were also uncharacteristically restrained in their tackles throughout the game, which worked in Arsenal’s favour.

The Gunners had complete control over territory and possession but West Ham remained compact, deep, and disciplined. The visitors did create a number of half-chances but there wasn’t any that stood out as  glaring missed opportunity in the opening period.

Carroll was a constant menace at the other end as the Gunners had no answer to his aerial prowess. Neither Mertesacker, not Vermaelen succeeded in containing the big striker. This meant West Ham were able to gain territory easily to get to Arsenal’s final third. It’s interesting to note that the hosts attempted only 91 passes in their own half completing 85 of those for a success rate of 93 percent in contrast to the 142 they tried in the final third with only 84 successful for an accuracy of 59 percent.

The Hammers, it seemed, were getting carried away by Carroll’s prowess and forgot they could also play on the ground. This limited their chances to direct headers and attempts off the second ball as there were few, if any, attempts to work combinations in the final third. While their direct style relying on strength and size did evoke many oohs and aahs from the crowd and a degree of concern amongst the Gooner faithful, it was an inherently inefficient tactic and proved fruitless as the Gunners got sufficient bodies to crowd out the openings.

Diame’s Goal

Their goal came, ironically, through a good move on the ground although Diame’s power did play it’s part. Arsenal paid the price of dropping too deep but not getting compact. Newcastle had a 2-v-2 on the flank but there was a massive gap between Ramsey and Mertesacker. Theoretically, the German should have been closer to the Welshman to cover the possibility of Diame going past but, presumably, he got sucked to the centre of the box to deny space to Carroll.

Ramsey also made the mistake of attacking the ball. In that position it’s important to hold and force the opponent to produce a quality moment to get past you. But the Welshman’s inherently attacking instincts meant that he lunged towards the ball. Diame was alert and clever as he simply flicked the ball to nutmeg Ramsey and get into the box. The angle was tight but he has a lot of time since the Gunners had no cover whatsoever. The West Ham hard man generated good power and kept it on target. That was enough.

Giroud’s Equalizer

Arsenal, as we’ve come to expect, responded with greater desire and the move for the equalizer started when Arteta stole the ball from the feet of an opponent midway inside the West Ham half. Giroud received it deep and spread it wide to Podolski. The German’s low cross was into a dangerous area between the defence and the ‘Keeper. The Frenchman’s run was purposeful and his long strides proved decisive as he guided it home.

As we’ve seen throughout the season, the Gunners are more potent when creating down the left. It’s difficult to be sure whether this was a conscious effort but Podolski stayed wide a lot more than he usually does and that helped the team.

Second Half

I got a feeling West Ham came out believing they could win the game. Allardyce’s men pushed up as a unit and put pressure on the Arsenal midfield and defence. They also sustained some spells of pressure winning a number of threatening free-kicks. But their combination play was still ineffective which reduced the quality of chances in many instances. On the whole they seemed to have created more in the first half than they did in second.

Arsenal struggled for the first fifteen minutes or so. I don’t think they had a shot on goal during that period. Walcott was introduced for Gervinho just after the hour mark. Some might say that was an early substitution by Wenger’s standards but it was to prove decisive.

Theo brought a better understanding of the right wing role than Gervinho had shown. This included cleverly timed runs to go with his uncatchable pace. It brought Arsenal back into the game as an attacking threat before decisively turning it into their favour.

Walcott’s Goal.

It was a quick break from West Ham with Diame once again powering down the left. But this time Arsenal had more bodies in the box and his cross went straight at Mertesacker who did a good job of blocking it without conceding a handball.

Walcott recovered the loose ball deep inside the Arsenal half and charged forward after playing it to Cazorla. The Spaniard found Giroud who’d popped up in a pocket in front of the defence. His through ball put Walcott clean through and the Englishman’s touch and finish showed a lot of effort has gone in training.

Cazorla’s Blast

After the second goal it seemed West Ham lost their sting and instead of coming hard at Arsenal they became a touch disjointed. The Gunners didn’t make the mistake of taking their foot off the gas and kept pushing for the third.

Walcott’s tenacity created an opening for Cazorla who scored his second of the season with a thundering left-footed strike from distance that gave Jaaskelainen no chance.

By the end Arsenal were clear winners. West Ham were in it for a long while but the Gunners were able to raise the bar in the latter stages.

Individual Performances:

Mannone: Has problems judging the flight of the ball and with related decision making, but those aren’t going to go away overnight. Can’t fault him for the goal and did handle other balls that came his way well enough.

Jenkinson: Steady game from the youngster. Kept Jarvis well in control and even troubled him with his pace.

Mertesacker: Was partially at fault for the West Ham goal. Won 7/13 but couldn’t really control Carroll till late in the game when the striker started tiring. But he did generally take up good positions in the centre and helped clear the danger on numerous occasions. Overall a respectable effort but can’t really be considered commanding. Did have a couple of half-chances in the West Ham penalty box.

Vermaelen: Another one who struggled in the air but made up for it on the ground. Controlled his tackling urges and didn’t concede needless set-pieces.

Gibbs: Saw a lot of the ball for the time that he was on the pitch as Arsenal built a lot through their left. Again offered decent attacking threat without producing the final ball.

Santos: Didn’t venture forward as much as Gibbs even in the closing stages when playing as a wing back but concentrated on his defensive work. Completed all 3 tackles but passing and positioning wasn’t always up to scratch.

The back five had a good game when seen in totality. They really struggled against Carroll in the air and did concede a number of noteworthy chances but put sufficient pressure on the attacking players to force errors.

Arteta: There was a graphic on Fox Soccer before the game that showed Arteta had made the most passes thus far in the top 5 leagues (Xavi was third but has probably played fewer minutes). This was another classic Mr. Dependable performance. 5/5 on tackles, 8/12 on ground duels, 106/111 on passes. Was present everywhere, especially in support of the defence, and started the move that led to the first goal.

Cazorla: Another Spaniard who’s been on top form and carried it forward. 6 shots, 5 blocked, 1 emphatic goal. Tended to drift to the left in this game and that helped the Gunners create more chances. Was strong in duels and dealt with the physical moments without flinching.

Ramsey: You could see the risk in playing him deep in midfield as his defensive weakness was exploited for the goal but you could also see the qualities he brings to the side as he constantly endeavoured to make a difference. After the last game I mentioned how Coquelin shied away from responsibility but Ramsey was 84/93 on passes and made himself available all over the pitch. Work rate has always been good and in this game he limited the instinct to attempt something extraordinary.

Ramsey and Arteta completed a 190 passes between them, West Ham completed 199. That midfield dominance was the key to Arsenal’s win as it controlled the probabilities of producing decisive moments at either end of the pitch.

Gervinho: Struggled to get into the game on the right. It’s happened to him before as he seems more effective wide on the left or the left inside channel. This is difficult to explain because he was fairly strong on the right at Lille.

Giroud: Others might have seen more of the ball but Giroud was my MotM as he made two massive contributions when Arsenal needed it. The first goal was not just a tap in. He picked it deep, spread it out, followed through with a run, and then directed it towards goal at full stretch. The assist for the second was just as important. For all of Arsenal’s dominance, these were the two moment that sparked the comeback and sealed the win. On the whole he was a constant threat in the final third. Movement was typically good but he also hit the target more often than he’s in the past.

Podolski: Seemed like he’d been asked to stay wider in this game. Created six chances in total and was able to influence the game more than he does when he drifts centrally into a crowded area. Over time he’ll have to find a balance between the two.

Theo: Timed his run superbly; Gervinho was caught off-side in a similar situation earlier in the game. Good first touch and intelligent, composed finish. The assist wasn’t a great pass but a reward for keeping an eye on the ball and battling for possession.

The front three worked hard and even though Gervinho had an off day the other two compensated for it before Walcott came in and helped seal the game.

Subs: Koscielny was the only late sub and it was a good response to the introduction of Carlton Cole. Hopefully Arsenal will be open to 3 at the back more often.

Wenger: Trust in Ramsey was justified, introduction of Walcott was timely and effective, use of Koscielny could be a sign of things to come in the future.

Thanks for the feedback. Most people don’t seem to mind splitting the article into two. I’ll give the two post version a trial after the international break.


19 Responses to West Ham 1 – 3 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. goonvincible says:

    A very good read! None of that x/10 rating nonsense in the individual analysis.

  2. roh top gun says:

    Top Post, Desi… I feel that Arsenal play a lot better as a team when they play with Giroud up front… He offers a focal point for our attacks, his hold-up play and off-the-ball movement is sublime, and offers an aerial presence while also being good with the ball at his feet… He’s turnin out to be a top, top signing by le Boss… He is certainly going to significantly add to his 2 goal tally…

    • cupsui says:

      agree with this. Gervinho overall is probably a more dangerous player, but with him up top we are undersized and it takes out the link up play. Giroud was exceptional in this game. His touch is quality and vision is very underrated just look at the dynamic he brings if only from the his two assists in the last two games.

      Gervinho seems like he needs a rest just to keep himself fresh but he has been quality this season…today he really struggled. gave it away a lot and was simply not on the same wavelength as teammates.

      I would like to say start theo next game but he is just SO SO deadly off the bench now even more so than in the past. He is becoming more intelligent with his runs and his finishing is fast becoming clinical. Add his pace to this against tiring defenders and that is a REAL weapon.

  3. createstrain says:

    nice write up, girooo could of had a hat trick indeed and was my man of the match also. always working and has pace for such a big fella. cant believe he didnt try his trademark chip over the keeper from cazs’ through ball. i think next season he’ll be hitting 20 quite easily.

    massive 3 points i felt just before the break, not only for keeping pace with the chavs and manure but to show that yes we might lose to chelski etc… but we’re gonna beat the rest or die tryin. i got that old feeling of ‘we’ll win this’ after the first goal.

    and to think this team is relatively brand spankers. with no sagna, jack, mozart and diaby in and out.

  4. Royal Bludger says:

    Thank God for Desi Gunner! Intelligent, educated analysis and discussion.

  5. Dianjuh says:

    There are so many good feelings to this win. First, it was a derby. Two, away from home. 3, Giroud opens his account, 4 Theo shows he can come in and influence a game. 5 Cazorla is world class, 6 and most importantly, Wenger made substitutions early to change the game and late on added to the defense to see out the win. Am enjoying this new team. Nice analysis Desi as usual keep it up!

  6. Dianjuh says:

    There are so many sides to this win. First, it was a derby. Two, away from home. 3, Giroud opens his account, 4 Theo shows he can come in and influence a game. 5 Cazorla is world class, 6 and most importantly, Wenger made substitutions early to change the game and late on added to the defense to see out the win. Am enjoying this new team. Nice analysis Desi as usual keep it up!

  7. Dan says:

    i also loved the three at the back…that would allow us to play with the two strikers upfront

  8. Since 66 says:

    Desi a number of others have commented on the 3 at the back concept. Perhaps you could give us some extensive thoughts on the possible pluses and minuses of such a change.

    I know Wenger is accused of rigidity ( rightly so at times I think ) but he has too made adjustments over the course of his 16 seasons. Remember it was 4/4/2 and had to be originally but more recently the Barca style but then that also amended ( if my eyes don’t deceive) to Barca’s latest with a false 9 once or twice. The mouth waters at what team system can be achieved with little Jack amongst our current improving crew.

    Perhaps a degrees of flexibility in our defence system instead of just accommodating the talents of our attacking midfielders and roaming forwards and wingers. After all the 3 centre backs we currently have at our disposal are surely too good to have one of them chained to the bench because “that’s the way it’s always been”. And Arteta’s incredible adjustment to play in front of a possible back three like that -wow!

    Your thoughts would be appreciated.

    • Gerry Lennon says:

      I have suggested the 3 centre backs before, but the key is to get it right. The downside is you lose a midfielder, if, as suggested, you have two up front. The two midfielders behind will be under a lot of pressure from any side that tends to swamp the midfield e.g Chelsea – 5v2?? Remember also, that also means only one, if it is Arteta, would have any defensive skills. Lot of pressure on him if you start the match with this formation.
      Midfielders tend to be more mobile, quicker on the turn, and can harrass attackers higher up the pitch,. This is why defensive midfield is a very specialised position, and because of that it is too simplistic to say play a centre back in that position. Even someone as mobile as Kos. Centre backs see the game in front of them. Intelligent midfielders are aware of thing all around. it is because Arteta is an intelligent player he has made such a success in that role.
      So when is the right time to play the 3 backs. This game was ideal for the late change. We had a fresh attacker on, Walcott, and WHA were not using their midfield to any great effect. Not only that, losing Gibbs meant we could be weaker on the left when Santos was defending and this enabled Vermaelin to cover.
      If Gibbs is out for any time, it could be a disguised ploy to keep to that finishing line up, with Verm more as a LB and Santos more of a MF(which he is,imo). Hopefully the break will Gibbs time to recover?

  9. noobpro says:

    just a lingering thought. arsenal put a lot of pressure on west ham at the start with high energy pressing and running. but the final ball was lacking. as the midfield would work the ball to the flanks where then they would cross the ball in. but all the crosses were wasted. thus my question . why do arsenal insist with crosses ? just pass and pass and keep ball. what do u guys think ?

  10. sarz says:

    Hey Desi !! Not criticizing or anything, but you’ve typed up “Newcastle had a 2-v-2 on the flank” in the Diame’s Goal section. Love your blog! Cheers!

  11. Insyder says:

    Ramsey had 83 passes that I can’t deny but we should look at the type of pass we are counting most of the facing his goal,then the other half were short forcing his team mates to get them, the kind of passes that can cause your team mate to get injury. There was no accuracy to the pass.the fact that a pass should reach a team mate without the team struggling to get it.Just forces team mate to work hard than you. Work rate counts for nothing if its not constructive.What the point of running a marathon the stop a metre before the finish line? just like saying you made tea without tea leaves? If that does not hit home I say what point of buying a comb when you bald? Call me a thomas but Rambo is an average player doesn’t not deserve the 90 min play. He plays better from the bench, coz when comes from the bench he comes with alot of vim & excitment that propels him to do the unexpected.

  12. Gerry Lennon says:

    Whilst I have my doubts as to whether Ramsey really suits the quick passing style of game, what I cannot deny, unlike some, that his last two starts have been his best since before his injury. In his previous match I did not think he lasted the full 90 minutes, and for the last half hour, and he went back to misplacing passes, slow to recover position, etc, which is something the bedevilled him for much of last season. In this game he was still going strong at the end. Yes, he did mess up in defence that led to their goal. He is not a very good defensive midfielder, full stop. But as Desi has pointed out, he did get involved elsewhere in the pitch. So to criticise him now, when he is beginning to get the confidence to play well, is misplaced.
    He has a few weaknesses, defending can be one of them. I also would like him to play the long ball with a bit of back spin, not flat as he tends to do. Song was an expert at that, and it makes so much easier for the receiver. These are things he can work on, whereas last season his whole game was flawed with a fear of making mistakes so he played it safe … and then made mistakes. To compare this game with those in the past is petty, imo?
    Very good write up, as expected, Desi

  13. Gerry Lennon says:

    Oh, I forgot to say …. The Podolski cross was brilliant. He bent it around the defender and the curve took it away from the keeper.
    Alas, I think Gibbs injured himself doing similar, which is why it skied up into the crowd.

  14. Nairobi Gooner says:

    Fantastic read and analysis, this blog is now my top read for the season!

  15. Scott (USA) says:

    Great performances from so many players. Giroud, Pod, Cazorla and a lift from the bench (Walcott with a clinical finish). Ramsey I don’t understand though. He created West hams goal by diving in. Diame did not want to use his left and all Ramsey had to do was stand him up take away his right foot and delay for help. You just don’t dive in in that area. Taking nothing away from the Henryish finish. Ramseys passing is ok. His accuracy comes from little 1/2 that are not being defended. When there is pressure he has trouble and occasionally gives hospital balls to his teamates. He is not and never will be world class, but a descent back up I would say. I will be glad when Jack is back. Diaby and Arteta can play the holding role , Ramsey can not and attacking mid? We have better. Besides Carroll Arsenal handled West Ham very well and their patience payed off. Giroud gives us something different and teams are not handling him well. I like it. I just love haviong Arteta and Cazorla in the Mid. Class acts.I love this team.

  16. Tandava says:

    Very precise but why such bored/boring report ffs?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s