Arsenal 5 – 1 West Ham: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

That was fun. Those ten minutes in the second half are up there with anything Arsenal have produced this season. Fast tempo, delightful combination play, precision in the final third, clinical finishing, it was all there.

Wenger’s starting line-up was interesting. Without Arteta and Diaby the midfield did lack some physical and defensive qualities. West Ham could have used this to their advantage but I was really surprised by Big Sam’s team selection and tactics. Indeed, for all talk of aggression and an ‘in-your-face’ tactics, I felt the former Bolton manager was very timid in his approach. Leaving the likes of Diame and Alou Diarra on the bench while starting the likes of Matt Taylor, Collison, and Vaz Te was baffling.

It could be that he wanted some pace on the counter-attack but I don’t see why it should have come at the cost of physical and technical qualities. We don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes there so I’ll leave it at that, they probably have their reasons.

West Ham have a terrible record on the road and their recent form must be disappointing for many fans. This team selection meant they would have little chance of getting anything from this visit to the Emirates.

Nevertheless, the first half was quite close. Both sides scored a goal from distance, albeit under different circumstances. Both also went close with a chance that was cleared off the line. Arsenal had 8 shots in total to West Ham’s 9.

The game was level partly due to Arsenal’s tentativeness in possession and in the vital attacking areas. The Gunners had created some very promising moments and showed excellent link play in the build up but they weren’t finding the final ball. The visitors defended diligently even when they weren’t well organized. A number of crucial interceptions and tackles kept their goal relatively safe. Andre Marriner’s role in levelling play must be noted but I don’t really wish to dwell on it.

In attack, Big Sam’s side were about as one dimensional as you can imagine. Vermaelen’s tussle with Carlton Cole minimized the chances they had of gaining territory but their tendency to put the ball in the box from any free kick – even if it was in the centre of the pitch – did put Arsenal under some pressure.

The teams went in level at half time. The game was there for Arsenal to take but we’ve see the Gunners slip up under such circumstances before, particularly when the ref is extremely lenient with the calls.

The start to the second half took care of everything. Straight from kick-off Arsenal played some sublime football. I doubt West Ham got a touch before that last gasp intervention from Tomkins prevented Wilshere from tapping a Walcott cross in. Pressure was sustained and lead taken through a clever corner routine.

It appeared as though Walcott’s corner was under-hit – it very well might have been – but the way Mertesacker pulled his marker in to make space for Giroud was appreciable. The German also did just enough to get in the way of Tomkins, which earned the Frenchman the opportunity to strike the ball unchallenged. Giroud connected well and Jaaskelainen had no chance even though the ball was straight at him.

Then in a space of four minutes or so Podolski picked up three assists. Many players made excellent contributions in the build up of these goals. It was truly a team effort.

The game was over at 5-1. After the injury to Potts it was just about running the clock down.

Before the game I’d mentioned this as one of the eminently winnable games. After the match it’s easy to see why. West Ham have a very vertical style of play. They like to play in the opposition penalty box or just in front of their own, at least against the big teams. With the game stretched in that dimension, Arsenal found plenty of space in the middle to build their attacks. Big Sam’s team selection meant the visitors had very little ability to challenge the Gunners in the central areas of the pitch. When they tried chasing the game they just didn’t have the quality to retain possession. Their high line was exposed quite easily.

Arsenal obviously have potential. There are some genuinely talented players in the side. However, unless they can produce this kind of performance on a very consistent basis and against the bigger clubs, the quality of the opposition has to be deemed the major factor behind the result.

The upcoming fixture list does provide the Gunners a chance to prove they can produce these performances consistently. It doesn’t have to be a big win every time. Scoring five goals in every game is not going to happen. But the players have to produce the kind of dynamic football that actually asks serious questions and threatens the opponents. Too often the Gunners haven’t even registered meaningful shots on target. This has to happen soon or the race for the Champions League spots will become a lost cause.

Individual Performances:

Szczesny: Had another fairly easy game. Good distribution in the build up to the fifth goal. Could he have gotten closer to the ball for the goal conceded? I doubt it.

Sagna: Won a number of useful headers, was reliable on the ball, a solid game from the full back.

Mertesacker: Could maybe have done better to block the shot? A fairly comfortable game otherwise.

Vermaelen: His tussle with Cole was interesting. Didn’t always come near the ball but often did enough to unsettle the striker. Made one very good block. Passing was efficient.

Gibbs: Had a very effective game in attack and defence, although West Ham didn’t test him as much as some other teams have done and will do. Timing of the runs has been excellent throughout the season and he’s now gaining composure on the ball. Promising.

The defence had a fairly easy game apart from set-pieces where they didn’t look entirely convincing. But West Ham do trouble all teams with their free kicks and corners.

Ramsey: I think he deserves great credit for his performance in this game, in a difficult role. It wasn’t just about the number (123) or accuracy (95%) of passing – which showed he kept things simple and effective – but the overall nature of the challenge. He is by instinct an attacking player used to making runs and always looking for penetrating passes. That makes the discipline of this effort all the more commendable. Made a vital clearance off the line as well. But I wouldn’t say this is the role for him in the long run. There were times when a presence in front of the defence was missing.

Cazorla: Had a bit of a mixed bag. That cross-field pass to Walcott just before the third goal was possibly the best I’ve seen from him, which is saying something. Took his goal really well as well and was almost always involved. But I also thought he took too many shots and some of his passing in the final third was not at the level of precision he is capable of.

Wilshere: Really made the most of all the space available between the lines, particularly after he skipped past the initial challenge. A very dominant display from the youngster with numerous delightful passes.

The midfield had an enjoyable outing. In the first half they did have players getting tight on them but there was still plenty of time and space to create and work the angles. In the second half there was no battle.

Walcott: Another one who had a mixed performance. Some of his runs were sensational, goal was superbly taken, picked up a useful assist as well. But there were time when his touch, finish, or decision making let him down. He can do better.

Giroud: His first half effort frustrated me often as he kept losing the ball, often to attempted first-touch passes that just didn’t come off. Second half was much better. Crisp finishes for both goals, good contribution for the third, and in general his link play came off.

Podolski: Easily the MotM. As we’ve discussed before, he’s a completely different player when he gets some space to run into and/or time on the ball. Demel had a disastrous outing but that doesn’t take away from his vision and precision of execution. The nature of his goal and the timing had a big impact on the game as it lifted everyone.

The front three had some chances in the first half but it was a tad frustrating. Then it all clicked in the second period. Although towards the end it again got a bit frustrating but by then Giroud and Podolski had left the pitch.

Subs: Oxlade-Chamberlain disappointed with his choices and execution, Santos looked rusty, Koscielny had a relatively comfortable time at the back. They came on when the game was over so it didn’t really matter.

Wenger: We’ve seen his teams carve opponents apart often enough this season yet they’ve been lacking in consistency. It’s a bit of a conundrum that isn’t easy to solve because defining the problem itself is proving to be a challenge. Can his players find this level of precision and tempo when the opponents are better organized and get tight? More work is needed in defending the set-pieces. It’s odd that Arsenal have 11 players back but still can’t get close enough to a man shooting from the edge of the box!


13 Responses to Arsenal 5 – 1 West Ham: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. jumpingpolarbear says:

    Podolski was just amazing! He was behind some beautiful goals last night!

  2. KC says:

    Walcott deserves much more credit than given in this article. His pace and energy stimulated all kinds of attacks. He was up for and all over the W. Ham defense. I thought he was an obvious 2nd place for MoM behind Podolski.

  3. rotterdam gunner says:

    the whole team deserves credit 4 the enjoyable night. wilshere walcott gibbs padolski they were fabulous

  4. HASH says:

    Arsenal have to play like champions now, for them to finish 4th. They need to play like the game with WH every game from now on. Play at high pace and playing to win. Do not give room to the opponent and close them down very fast. Not to hold on to the ball very long. Stop , pass and move. This is how big teams like Barca, ManU and Mancity play. And this was how Arsenal used to play!!!! They have to recall their memories. In training they have too much time and don’t tackle enough and so they like to play and run with the ball. They cannot play like this in EPL! They will get clobbered and EPL referees are not that generous like the Europeans. So get back to basics!!!!!!!!!

  5. Ole Gunner says:

    Arsenal don’t need to perform against the bigger sides. They just need to consistently break down the rest of the league

  6. Mauritius Arsenal Fan says:

    I am not being negative here but you people are jumping around like we’ve win the league.what about those bad performances we’ve had?are they all forgotten?will you all be complaining again next week when we face Liverpool?we are all passionate fans of Arsenal,we will stick together but this season is the worst of all.you may not agree with me but this is reality.

  7. lance says:

    too much praise for a good 10 minute spell. lets look at the other 80 mins apart from podolski who was excellent
    schezny – no comment not much to do
    sagna – honestly does not look like the player we know. error prone
    per – reads the game well but gets caught out in the 1-1 situation
    tv5 – still does not look safe
    gibbs – gets into excellent spaces but has to have the worst crosses in the league. they guy cannot cross a ball to save his life
    ramsey – always taking the safe option passing sidewards or back no penetration
    wiltshire – always looking to attack but no good movement around him which leaves him stranded
    walcott – still needs to develop a football brain. we were 3 to 1 in their box and he tries to chip the ball when he should draw the defender and square. like a horse with blinkers
    cazorla – loves to play football but with giroud , walcott , ramsey around him we dont get to see the magic

  8. Ikuegbuwa olajide shittu says:

    Am happy to see the gunners destroying the hammers once again this season,i hope they can keep goin with this good form.

  9. Igburu samuel says:

    the issue of inconsistency can be reduce to barest minimum in the sense that there are certain players if you like call them playmaker, inspirational player or top quality player we are in the same direction, every team need these type of players because they have positive influence and certain attribute that helps the team. You don’t loose these type of players if at all replace them immediately eg didier drogba, arteta when in everton, ba when in n’castle, cesc, van persie etc.also a very good depth in case of injuries or suspension .

  10. Gerry Lennon says:

    Hi Desi, Good analysis as usual. I was tempted to just reply to @Lance, but if that is his view, then fine.
    I fully agree on your take on Ramsey, by far his best game so far. I thought it a risk playing him as I though ‘Big Sam’ would target him for turnover balls. Amazingly, they gave us space to play? I cannot see even Brighton doing that? What was behind Diame not playing. Did Sam think his mindset was not right with the transfer talk? Strange.
    I wish others would get off Sagna’s case too. He had a solid game, with little help from Walcott, it has to be said, although that may have been part of the plan with Ramsey?. If Walcott had a distraction period over his contract, think just how bad it is for Bacs? His is 30, not sure where he will be next season, and doing a double shift every game. Before his leg breaks(both of them) he was hailed as the best right back in the league. Given the above mitigating circumstances, I don’t see his commitment to the club, or his game so diminished to warrant some of this derision. Give him at least a 2 year contract, with a loyalty bonus thrown in, and I think we have no worries in that position while Jenks gains his experience to take over?
    Giving Giroud a run of games is now bearing fruit. I think he is more Plan A than Plan B? Podolski, and the runs of Gibbs, bring balance to the side like no other pairing we have. Gibbs was still going strong in the full 102 minutes too, which is great to see after all his time out.
    I have said it before about Cazorla regards his shooting. I would not mind a bit if only he would get his technique right. Almost without exception, when he takes a shot from outside the box it will sail over the bar. The one time he brought about a save was because he was over the ball. The rest of them he gives the appearance of leaning back, hence giving it too much lift. If he is trying to get it to dip, then perhaps WE should sign D Beckham to give him lessons?
    Or maybe look at Podli’s goal … that ball did not spin at all, as the slow motion replays shows!
    Overall it was a good team performance, coming on the back of a couple of poor results. In terms of this being our worst season in recent years, against the top sides that would appear to be the case? But there is still time to turn that around, especially with the promised signings?

  11. Philbet says:

    Well Gerry I also was tempted to reply to Lance and could not resist,Lance are you a fan or a fool?? if we follow your principal we sell all bar Cazola,then somehow sign a team of ‘not for sale’ or ‘unavailable’ mercenary’s with no guarantee of performance and at a considerable wage bill, maybe if you owned the club you could do this but as the club is actually a business with shareholders to account to, that is hoping to remain solvent, your reply is just worthless cyber talk,

  12. Shiv says:

    The fantastic display highlighted our problems over the season. Put very simply, to score goals you need to put balls in the box and have bodies in the box to meet the crosses. Far too often during the past few seasons arsenal teams have been guilty of pottering around the box without any decisive action. Even in this match twice i noticed gibbsy making crosses with nobody in the area to meet the cross. We have accused OG of not settling in fast enough. Well can you score from crosses flying over your head. Both he and Luksi showed how its done in thrilling fashion in this match. Wish the same team turns up in the next game.

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