Gunners pile woe on Grant
West Ham 0 Arsenal 3
Published 16/01/2011 | 05:00
IF THIS indeed was the climax of Avram Grant's long goodbye at West Ham then it came and went without offering the Israeli even the hint of a happy ending.
There was no surprise win over stellar opponents for him to savour, or even an uplifting performance from his own side to enjoy. Instead east London's very own dead man walking has been forced to stride into the darkness of unemployment with only another defeat for company. He may well take relief from an end to the torture.
A victory would not have come as an almighty shock given West Ham have already beaten Tottenham and Manchester United on home turf this season, but Arsenal were in control throughout, winning by three and coming close on numerous occasions to add to their tally.
Victory reasserts the visitors' title-winning credentials but the story of this match was always going to be Grant, who woke yesterday morning to stories that, regardless of what took place here, he was going to be sacked by the end of the weekend, a hardly surprising outcome given the club's inability to climb out of the relegation zone and the subsequent whispering campaign that has continued to undermine the former Portsmouth manager.
The loss of Scott Parker to an ankle injury was a serious blow for Avram Grant ahead of this difficult and potentially pivotal encounter. Robert Kovac came in for the midfielder with the brief of protecting West Ham's defence from the forward runs of Cesc Fabregas and Jack Wilshere.
But the visitors are a threat from other areas and proved as much on 13 minutes by taking the lead through Robin van Persie. It was a simple but impressive goal, with Theo Walcott playing a square pass into the area that Samir Nasri stepped over and the Dutchman swept the ball past Robert Green and into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal.
Arsenal would have taken comfort as well as delight from the goal. After all, the team came into this fixture having won only one of their past five matches, the last of which was Wednesday's 1-0 defeat at Ipswich. For Van Persie, it was also a third goal of yet another injury-disrupted season.
The mood quickly darkened among the home supporters, even more so when Mark Noble was substituted with an apparent injury soon after and replaced by Luis Boa Morte.
West Ham failed consistently to cope with the visitors' quick passing and it came as little surprise when Walcott made it 2-0 five minutes before half-time, side-footing Van Persie's cross into the net, having been played onside by Wayne Bridge on his debut for the hosts.
Cue jubilation from the away supporters, chanting at the West Ham manager: "You're getting sacked in an hour."
Arsenal appeared content with a 2-0 lead and were making little effort to turn a comfortable lead into a rout. Nevertheless, Wenger's side continued to catch the eye, no one more so than Wilshere.
The visitors did, however, find enough thrust to score a third when Walcott stormed into the area before being tripped by Bridge, whose dismal debut performance culminated with the full-back being substituted with an injury late on.
Van Persie converted the subsequent penalty to seal a comfortable win and, ultimately, Grant's fate.
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