Wednesday 25 April 2018

Arsenal find steel to overhaul Hammers

West Ham Utd 1 Arsenal 3

Arsenal's Santi Cazorla celebrates after scoring their third goal
Arsenal's Santi Cazorla celebrates after scoring their third goal

Amy Lawrence at Upton Park

It was a bold old statement of Arsene Wenger's to suggest that Arsenal can compensate for Robin van Persie's goals by sharing the load around his newly assembled frontline. His team rose to the challenge here, though, with a first Premier League goal for Olivier Giroud, and fine strikes from Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla, crowning a valuable win.

Having suffered a setback last weekend with a performance that frustrated Wenger in defeat to Chelsea, Arsenal responded with a show of character when confronted with an old nemesis in the shape of a Sam Allardyce team that took the lead and backed them into what might have been an awkward corner. Arsenal remain unbeaten away from home and continue to play some compelling football on the road.

For all the talk of the damage West Ham's direct approach could inflict on an Arsenal team that have crumbled at set-pieces lately, it was the threat of the visitors that made the early impression. They sliced through West Ham twice in the opening 10 minutes, inspired by the slick and stylish Cazorla. Giroud's well aimed left-foot shot was turned around the post by Jussi Jaaskelainen, before a sweeping move ended with Cazorla's shot being blocked.

Before the game Allardyce noted how his team had to get the ball from Arsenal in order to weave their own brand of attack. But that proved a difficult task as Wenger's team dominated possession at the start. Another chance fell to the Gunners from a corner, as Giroud showed neat feet to find room to shoot, but his curling effort was glanced to safety by Andy Carroll.

With Arsenal looking dangerous from the set-piece, West Ham duly took the lead with some virtuoso skill. With 20 minutes gone, George McCartney fed the ball to Mohamed Diame, who powered into the box and bent the ball ferociously past Vito Mannone and into the far corner of the net. It was a marvellous finish from the Senegalese, who celebrated his first goal for the club with such relish by throwing himself into the crowd, he was cautioned.

He could count himself lucky shortly afterwards as he recklessly careered late into Mikel Arteta, but escaped further sanction when Phil Dowd elected not to reach for another card. The goal knocked Arsenal out of their stride. But it was the man who had been struggling most obviously for confidence who grabbed Arsenal by the scruff of the neck to get them back into the game. Giroud won the ball in midfield, sauntered upfield and arced a pass to Lukas Podolski.

The Frenchman, determined and alive to chances throughout the first half, sprinted in front of his marker to lash the return ball past Jaaskelainen. West Ham squandered a wonderful opportunity to retake the lead in first-half stoppage-time, as Carroll nodded a free-kick down to Kevin Nolan. The infamous double act almost worked, but Nolan was unable to connect cleanly.

The teams jostled for position after the break. But it was Arsenal who stepped up the pressure. Cazorla drilled a shot wide, Aaron Ramsey appealed for a penalty when he tangled with Matt Taylor on the edge of the area and Podolski drilled in a shot which Jaaskelainen saved. It was coming, and substitute Walcott delivered. Giroud was again involved, with another deft assist which set Walcott bearing down on goal. The finish was instinctive and ruthless.

Arsenal were let off when Nolan found himself in the heart of the penalty area, only to lift the chance over the crossbar. The visitors searched for a clincher. Per Mertesacker came close with a shot on the turn which whizzed past a post. But West Ham could do nothing when Walcott found Cazorla with a neat flick. The Spaniard arrowed a brilliant, precision third from 25 yards.


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