Dear Kieran Gibbs: Here is a GIF file I want you to watch over, and over, and over again. This what we old-schoolers like to call a ‘cross’. It’s not one of those ‘I’ll just chip this upwards and watch the defender nod it away with ease’ types. This is a stinger that causes all sorts of doubt in the opposition and makes hungry Girouds smile.
This isn’t an attack on Gibbs, who had a decent game before being subbed off, but it reflects my wish that Arsenal got more players in the box, more often, and upped the quality of its crosses.
Arsenal triumphed 3-1 over West Ham United at Upton Park last night thanks to Olivier Giroud’s first goal in the Premiership, a pacey Theo Walcott counter and long-distance gem from Santi Cazorla.
The three goals cancelled out Mohamed Diame’s excellent first-half finish in the home side’s first shot in anger after Arsenal had dominated the first 20 minutes. The visitors had come flying out the traps from kick-off and got straight into their passing rhythm.
But some hesitancy at the back from both Aaron Ramsey and the reinstated Per Mertesacker saw Diame stride into the box on the left, before nutmegging Ramsey and hitting a true shot around Vito Mannone from a tight angle. Great goal from their perspective, but it was a sucker-punch for Arsenal after totally dominating proceedings yet conceding from West Ham’s first real attack.
The equaliser came when Giroud fed Podolski down the left channel, then immediately made a bee-line for the near post. Podolski’s cross was true enough to get a GIF file dedicated to it, with Giroud on hand to toe-poke home and open his EPL account.
But like our previous late-first-half equaliser this season (Gervinho against Chelsea), it failed to spur the players on heading into the second half.
West Ham enjoyed their best patch for about 15 minutes which saw Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan really grow into the game. Carroll gave Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen a real work-out as he headed down balls for Nolan to feed off (if you think that’s some kind of bizarre sexual imagery, that’s your problem) and Nolan missed a gilt-edged chance to put his side back in the lead when he had the goal at his mercy.
We eventually got to grips with the game again, but not to the level where you thought the result was in the bag. In fact, I was only just coming to terms with yet another draw when Giroud sprung the Hammers’ defence, unleashing Walcott on the break to sprint clear and hit a juicy finish past Jussi Jaaskelainen at his near post.
Theo sprinted to the travelling Gunners support and was clearly ecstatic with his effort. My cynicism won’t let me decide on whether it was a ‘harr, look at me, striker extraordinaire’ vindication aimed at Arsene Wenger, or the fact he legitimately glad to put Arsenal in the lead, but it was a goal that out of nowhere put us well and truly in the ascendancy.
That momentum was capped when Walcott gathered the ball in midfield and stabbed it Santi Cazorla’s way. Rather than bore you word for word in describing what followed, just have a look at this:
It was a thing of beauty and just sums up what a player we have on our hands.
Mannone – 6.5: Was brave in the box and took some punishment, but had a few let-offs, particularly against Carroll.
Jenkinson – 6.5: Not as effective as he has been in attack but did okay at the back.
Mertesacker – 7: Huge improvement to defence with him in it. Still some shaky moments here and there, including when Diame scored, but good to have him back.
Vernaelen- 7: Resisted the urge to bomb forward for the most part and held his own during the hosts’ spell of pressure.
Gibbs – 7: Combative in defence and always looking to counter. A good game cut short by another niggle.
Arteta – 7: Efficient in his distribution and scrapped about when West Ham was in the ascendancy.
Ramsey – 6.5: At fault for the first goal and a lot of the pressure we were put under in the second half was also down to some flakey tackles. But came into the game a bit more once we had taken the lead.
Cazorla – 8.5: An absolute wizard. Apart from a quiet spell early in the second half, he was everywhere for us, dictating play in the first half and on hand to hit an absolute howitzer past Jaaskelainen. A total boss signing.
Podolski – 7: Works like a trojan down the left. Found space brilliantly and hit a textbook cross for Giroud to equalise. Yet to get a full 90 minutes this season.
Gervinho – 6: A no-show last night. Didn’t create much and his touch was off.
Giroud – 8: Awesome to have the Premier League monkey off his back and it was a great little finish off Podolski’s cross. Battled brilliantly with the Hammers defence in the air and hit a lovely through-ball for Walcott to score.
SUBS: Santos – 6.5: Had none of his positioning difficulties like we saw against Coventry and generally covered well for the injured Gibbs.
Walcott – 7.5: His best showing this season, ignoring Coventry. A great finish for the goal which shows he can still play as a ‘right striker’ rather than through the middle, which frankly doesn’t suit him. Goal clearly sparked him up and I hope it’s a sign of things to come, as a starting place could be around the corner.
Koscielny – 6.5: Came on for Podolski late on and helped carry the load in a five-man back line.
The Hype Meter has made a small recovery after the horror show against Chelsea last week. The win puts us in fifth position, behind Chelsea, Man City, Everton and West Brom. Manchester United, level on points with us, plays later tonight.
After the match, Arsene Wenger was effusive about his side’s chances to come up big at season’s end.
We started with a lot of questions raised about the team. We have now played seven games and the belief in the squad is that we have a chance. Of course we now need to do it week after week. The spirit and quality are there. It is about how consistent we are now.
Overall, another case of us scoring goals when it matters despite not playing particularly well. The first half was a wonderful case of this team starting on the front foot, but West Ham’s physical approach chipped away at our momentum and at one point I thought we’d be lucky to draw.
Some serious let-offs at the hands of Nolan means we should also be aware that there was an element of luck in this win as well, and on this showing West Ham should avoid the relegation dogfight.
Nevertheless, it’s a good scoreline to run away with just before yet another interminable international break. I’ll welcome it with open arms in the meantime as it might give me more time to write some more analysis articles, which I’ve been missing out on lately. It seems the blog is dedicated to match reports these days, so it will be good to shove some variety down your throats.
Be sure to leave your thoughts on the West Ham result in the comments. It’s been quiet around these parts lately, though that’s mostly my fault.
Back again soon. Thanks for reading.