Monday 24 April 2017

Ozil keeps top-four hopes alive as Bilic feels heat

Arsenal 3 West Ham Utd 0

Mesut Ozil celebrates giving Arsenal the lead at the Emirates. Photo: GETTY
Mesut Ozil celebrates giving Arsenal the lead at the Emirates. Photo: GETTY

Jeremy Wilson

Having finally stopped the bleeding by drawing against Manchester City on Sunday, Arsenal have now taken a first meaningful step towards recovery.

Yes, the collective seizure they suffered through February and March might ultimately still prove terminally damaging for Arsene Wenger in the great debate about his future but this emphatic win against West Ham does at least open a window of opportunity. Arsenal have not only risen above Manchester United and into the Premier League's top five but they could also now move to within one point of Manchester City by winning their game in hand.

The obvious caveat was the limitations of West Ham, with Slaven Bilic looking over his shoulder after five straight defeats.

After not knowing who was captain throughout the second half of the draw with City, Wenger took the continental approach in the absence of his three usual options by asking Theo Walcott - his longest-serving player - to wear the armband. Walcott was energetic in his tracking back but the collective nerves that have been so evident of late were again identifiable here.

Possession But then Arsenal slowly started to take a hold of possession. Hector Bellerin's pace saw him surge past Arthur Masuaku to the byline and he did well to pick out Walcott, whose first-time shot was too close to the centre of the goal to give Darren Randolph any difficulty.

The basic pattern was uninterrupted by half-time, with Arsenal increasingly dominant but finding it difficult to create clear chances. Indeed, it was a goalkeeping error that led to their crucial first goal.

Olivier Giroud curls in Arsenal's third goal. Photo: REUTERS
Olivier Giroud curls in Arsenal's third goal. Photo: REUTERS

Fonte had only half-cleared another speculative ball into the penalty area when it landed at the feet of Mesut Ozil. The German's shot was far from convincing but a combination of the ball bouncing in front of Randolph and Sanchez's run forward was sufficient distraction. West Ham felt that Sanchez was both offside and influencing play but the goal stood.

The wait for a match-winning Ozil contribution has been lengthy but he then combined brilliantly with Sanchez to create Arsenal's second. Ozil had started the move but Sanchez delivered a back-heel return from which Arsenal's record signing crossed for Walcott to complete a captain's performance with a low finish.

Wenger had plenty of attacking options on the bench and two of his substitutes combined to add the third, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain passing for Olivier Giroud to stake his claim to start ahead of Welbeck as the main striker with a superb left-footed finish. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Arsenal's Theo Walcott celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's second goal of the game. Photo: PA
Arsenal's Theo Walcott celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's second goal of the game. Photo: PA
Arsenal's Danny Welbeck has a shot blocked by West Ham United's James Collins. Photo: REUTERS
Arsenal's Danny Welbeck has a shot blocked by West Ham United's James Collins. Photo: REUTERS
Danny Welbeck (L) beats West Ham United's Michail Antonio and Andy Carroll (R) to the ball but has his header saved during the London derby at the Emirates. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Danny Welbeck (L) beats West Ham United's Michail Antonio and Andy Carroll (R) to the ball but has his header saved during the London derby at the Emirates. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Telegraph.co.uk

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