Wednesday, 19 January 2011

From rubbish to sublime: West Ham match report

West Ham 0 Arsenal 3

After what was one of the worst Arsenal performances I could remember, we needed a response. Whether or not Arsene was angry after the Ipswich game is somewhat moot - on Saturday we clearly saw a response and it was arguably the most domineering we've seen Arsenal this season.

With the exception of Johan Djourou who had a rare off day, it was an all-round good team performance. Sure, we weren't really troubled at the back but when we were Szczesny came good with a superb save. And that for me was the difference: in recent seasons, it wouldn't matter how much of the ball we had, because we were always incredibly susceptible to conceding to almost any opposition shot on target. With a goalkeeper who saves lots of shots (with all due respect to Manuel Almunia, he didn't save enough) we become a much stronger team.

It gives us room to play attacking, expansive football. Three times Carlton Cole had great chances, but it also meant that with lots of players high up the pitch, we could really attack the opposition. And there can't really be any argument about whether it paid dividends.

Wayne Bridge was arguably at fault for all three goals, but they were still well taken. A lot of the credit for this, has to go to an all-round good performance from Robin Van Persie. Aside from a dead game against Fulham on the final day of the season, we didn't really see a full, high-level performance lasting 90 minutes from him in the entire calendar year of 2010. Having him firing is an enormous boost - he helps link midfield and attack and he also scores goals.

On this occasion, it was a good finish with his chocolate leg, and his great cross, which gave us the two goal cushion which allowed us to control the game. Sure, Theo helped him out but against Wayne Bridge playing that badly, I reckon I could have got an assist. Full credit to him, he was clearly too quick for Bridge but sterner tests await - and it will be interesting to see how he copes with them. He's not going to keep Arshavin out the team on footballing ability, so he has to prove that his pace is an asset the team can't cope without. I am still unconvinced that's the case.

But as I said, it was the all-round performance which was so impressive. RVP and Nasri undoubtedly give us more sharpness in the final third - and boy was it nice to see some goals from open play - but it was also Wilshere (especially) and Song's battling in the midfield which allowed us to completely control the game. It can't have been easy for the West Ham players to go out there with a huge question marks hanging over the manager (and without their best player) but we made it a whole lot harder.

It's match two against Leeds tonight and obviously I'm hoping for a better performance than we saw at The Grove. I'd like to see Arsene rotate but I suspect he'll play a stronger team than first time around. Hey ho, if we get through I can't complain. The fixtures coming up are relatively easy, and frankly, it would be nice to see us win the rest of the games this month. Then, we can really start talking about winning trophies.

Keep the faith.

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