How much energy did the last week take out? Could Arsenal achieve a level of consistency? Could Chambers and Mari step up to the plate? Could Aubameyang play himself back into some kind of form?
A lot; no; no; no – in the first thirty minutes at least. But then, for some reason, Arsenal sparked into life and dominated the next 60.
West Ham only have three wins in 24 games against Arsenal.
Chambers, Tierney, Mari and Luiz formed the back four to deal with West Ham crosses. Partey started with Xhaka in midfiled. Saka was back on the left, Aubameyang on the right and Lacazette up front.
Hammers keeper Fabianski was Arsenal’s goalkeeper seven years ago – time flies. Cresswell, who has seven assists was in the left back position as the home side reverted to a back-four. David Moyes brought Arteta to Everton sixteen years ago, and the Arsenal manager said he changed him as a person. Glad he added – for the better, later.
The first half highlighted Arsenal’s problem – slow start, conceding early goals, inept defending and maintaining a level of consistency – and facing recovery for the rest of the game.
Some early pressure led to several crosses and Coufal firing over a chance in the first five.
Soucek had two headed chances in the first ten. It was only the eleventh minute when Arsenal ventured into the West Ham area.
Antonio drove down the left and cut it back for Lingard who trapped it, let it bounce and half-volleyed it with swerve before Chambers could get to him. He saw it evade Leno’s glove.
Arsenal were sleeping at free kick. Only Odergaard and Luiz were looking at the ball. Lingard took it quickly to Bowen who fired at Leno’s near post for the second goal.
Arsenal’s first shot was from Odergaard. It bounced up and Fabianski saved comfortably.
Tierney lost the ball on the left, Coufal sent in a looping cross and Antonio rose above Luiz and his header was turned in by the seemingly bionic Soucek. Czech mate.
After a sustained period of possession, with around ten minutes left in the half, Chambers found space on the right, crossed hard to Lacazette who swivelled and shot into the net via a deflection off Soucek. The spark?
Lacazette sent Saka away one on one with Fabianski, but the England man fired straight at him.
Tierney crossed hard Rice intercepted – but straight to Saka whose shot was deflected wide.
After half-time, Chambers sent Lacazatte away with a lob and the Frenchman impeded by Coufal lobbed Fabianski – but Diop ran back to clear off the line.
After another period of possession Odergaard found Lacazette on the half turn who fired hard – but Fabianski saved.
Arsenal took a free kick and Odergaard found Chambers on the right and Dawson fired into his own net dealing with the powerful cross.
But then the ex-Southampton player lost it, leading to a dangerous West Ham attack, but Tierney baled him out twice with two blocks.
On 73 Smith Rowe came on for Xhaka, Pepe for Saka and Noble for Bowen.
Antonio should have made it 4-2 when Benrahma drove to the byline and crossed – but he hit the post.
Pepe was sent away on the right and sent a pinpoint right-footed cross for Lacazette to power home.
Pepe had two good chances – the second in front of goal but he misfired with not enough body strength to shake off Coufal.
Lacazette said: “I have mixed between proud and disappointed with the first half – we didn’t respect the game plan from the coach.
“Calum deserves a big credit as he came back from a big injury. We have to improve. Its complicated when we do a different half. We have to work a lot in training to win this sort of game.”
Mikel Arteta said: “I am very disappointed and cannot accept my team to play at a certain period. We played well in the second. Their first goal was OK the second was unacceptable, the third was unacceptable.
The desire and togetherness was good afterwards. We deserved to win it at the end. The first part though worries me. Maybe it was a hangover from Europe, tiredness – but it was more than one or two players.”
On Calum Chambers, Arteta said: “He gives us height in the back-line and he played really well.”
David Moyes said: “It was a tough game. We played very well in first 30. We gave them a goal from a deflection just before half time – it made it more difficult. There was a lot of frustration about the decisions. It has been a long time since we finished above Arsenal – and we’ve gone a long way to achieving that.”
West Ham:1Fabianski, 5Coufal (Booked at 59mins), 15Dawson, 23Diop, 3Cresswell (Booked at 89mins),28Soucek, 41Rice, 20Bowen (Substituted for Noble at 74’minutes), 11Lingard, 9Benrahma (Substituted for Fredericks at 79’minutes), 30Antonio (Booked at 88mins)
Arsenal: 1Leno, 21Chambers, 23David Luiz, 22Marí, 3Tierney, 18Partey, 34Xhaka (Substituted for Smith Rowe at 74’minutes), 14Aubameyang (Substituted for Martinelli at 81’minutes), 11Ødegaard 7Saka (Substituted for Pépé at 74’minutes), 9Lacazette (Booked at 90mins).