Five things we learnt from Arsenal's victory over West Ham
Arsenal kept up the pressure on Everton in their battle for a Champions League place with a 3-1 victory over West Ham at the Emirates. Here are five things we gleaned from the game.
1. Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot
Arsenal do not have to start planning for life without Champions League football yet.
Everton host Crystal Palace at Goodison Park on Wednesday night knowing an eighth consecutive victory will take them back into fourth in the Premier League, but Arsène Wenger’s side demonstrated why many feel they are still in the driving seat for a top-four finish.
Just 72 hours after a draining 120-minute FA Cup semi-final win against Wigan at Wembley, this had the potential for a slip-up but Arsenal found enough.
They would lose out on around £25m if they end up playing in the Europa League next season and missing out on the Champions League would increase the scrutiny surrounding Wenger’s position at the club.
Wenger has warned his players against taking Champions League football for granted and there was no sign of them doing that.
2. Carroll can make late charge into England’s Brazil squad
Andy Carroll can still make England’s World Cup party. West Ham’s record signing was a notable omission from Roy Hodgson’s squad for March’s friendly against Denmark but has since shown that he could offer a Plan B in Brazil.
The 25-year-old is not suited to the way England want to play and is unlikely to break into the starting XI. However, he made an impact at Euro 2012 and, while he was quiet here, he might leapfrog Hodgson’s preferred forwards with a strong finish to the season.
It appears a straight battle between Southampton’s Rickie Lambert and Carroll, who kept Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny on their toes throughout.
3. Wenger does have better strikers than Sanogo after all
Arsenal do have better forward options than Yaya Sanogo.
Wenger surprised everyone by starting 21-year-old Sanogo at Wembley on Saturday but Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski showed why they are still the men to lead the Gunners’ attack.
Podolski has said he is “not happy” with being used sparingly by Wenger this season and the German international equalised with a clinical finish before sealing the three points late on.
They were only his fifth and sixth Premier League goals of the season but showed his class in front of goal.
Giroud has looked tired in recent months but he offered much more of a threat that Sanogo did against Wigan.
Wenger will need Podolski and Giroud among the goals for this crucial period of the season.
4. Kallstrom starts at last and could prove valuable signing
Kim Kallstrom made a long-awaited first start for Arsenal and, if the Sweden midfielder can recover his match sharpness quickly, there was evidence he could make an important contribution in the final month of the season.
Kallstrom, who was Arsène Wenger’s only January signing, has been troubled with a back injury since joining on loan from Spartak Moscow but may yet prove a decent bit of business if he helps Arsenal to a top-four finish and FA Cup success.
The 31-year-old showed neat touches alongside Mikel Arteta in central midfield and, while he is not as dynamic as Aaron Ramsey, he helped out going forward and came close to opening his Arsenal account in the first half.
Ramsey has returned to full fitness but Kallstrom’s performance was an encouraging sign for Wenger.
5. Tomkins is good, but never England World Cup class
James Tomkins has some way to go before being considered for an England call-up.
The defender said before the game that he has hopes of being selected in Roy Hodgson’s 23-man squad for the World Cup and many West Ham supporters believe he could be a surprise inclusion for Brazil in the summer. No, really.
“It would be a dream to play for my country one day,” said Tomkins.
While he has impressed at the heart of the Hammers’ defence this season and did little wrong here, he lacks the quality needed at international level and there is no chance he will be on the list when Hodgson names his squad on 13 May.