Match Report: Arsenal 1 – 0 West Ham United

Arsenal (0) 1 West Ham United (0) 0
Premier League
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Saturday, 7th March 2020. Kick-off time: 3.00pm
(4-3-1-2) Bernd Leno; Sokratis Papastathopoulos, David Luiz, Pablo Marí, Bukayo Saka; Dani Ceballos, Granit Xhaka, Nicolas Pépé; Mesut Özil; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Eddie Nketiah.
Substitutes: Hector Bellerín, Alexandre Lacazette, Reiss Nelson, Emiliano Martínez, Joe Willock, Mattéo Guendouzi, Gabriel Martinelli.
Scorers: Alexandre Lacazette (78 mins)
Yellow Cards: Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 69%
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Attendance: 60,335
For this, the last home London derby of the season for us, both clubs enter today’s fray with a real sense of foreboding, as it is vitally important that three points are collected at the end of the match; let it be Arsenal. We do not need any more jittery performances, half-baked defending, just a good strong, solid win will do for us this afternoon, thank you very much.
Well, with Jarrod Bowen hitting the woodwork after just two minutes, it was not exactly the auspicious start that we expected today, but although the visitors took the game to us quite early on, it was far too soon for the alarm bells to start pealing. Within the first quarter of an hour, Mesut Özil was unlucky not to score when his shot was cleared off the line by Aaron Cresswell, and just minutes later, a cross from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang found the head of Sokratis Papastathopoulos, whose subsequent cranial effort dramatically bounced off the top of the crossbar and into the blue yonder. The match now appeared to take on the form of a ping-pong game somewhat, with both sides creating chances for their respective strikers to score, but to no avail. However, despite some thundering play from our chaps, we were unable to convert our close cultured play into goals, and our frustration only served to allow the visitors to create some worrying chances to score against us in the dying minutes of the first half. In less than a minute after Michail Antonio’s header went wide, Eddie Nketiah was fouled by Jeremy Ngakia in the West Ham penalty area, which was undoubtedly a correct penalty call by us; sadly the indecisive circus that has now surrounded the VAR gang in Stockley Park cruelly denied Arsenal the right for the chance to take the lead on the stroke of half time.
Dejectedly, both sides appear to slouch their respective ways into the second half, with no discernible desire from anyone to change the status quo. However, seven minutes after the restart, we had a gilt-edged chance to score when young Bukayo Saka slotted an excellent through ball for Eddie Nketiah to run onto and shoot, but his well-struck effort was superbly saved by visiting ’keeper (and former Gunner, of course) Lukasz Fabianski; almost immediately, in a rebound movement by West Ham United, our current man in the number one jersey, Bernd Leno, was called into action when a Michail Antonio shot was palmed away athletically by Arsenal’s superb German international goalkeeper. On the hour, Eddie Nketiah was substituted for Alexandre Lacazette in a desire by Mikel Arteta to maximise our scoring chances in the last half hour of the game. After Sokratis Papastathopoulos became our first player of the afternoon to receive a yellow card for a pointless foul on Michail Antonio, our defence appeared to go to sleep when Jarrod Bowen ran through to have a free shot on our goal, which thankfully, was easily neutralised by Bernd Leno, who had an excellent match between the sticks for us today. At the away end, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang supplied a ball for Nicolas Pépé to run on and shoot, which was easily blocked by Aaron Cresswell, and a minute or so later, we had yet another penalty appeal turned down by VAR when Alexandre Lacazette was wrestled to the floor by visiting defenderAngelo Ogbonna. All this was immediately forgotten when our aforementioned number nine finally got the ball into the left-hand corner of the net (via a clever header involving Mesut Özil) from six yards out; even a heart-stopping three minutes’ investigation from VAR could not deny us this goal at last. With the deadlock broken so late in the match, and with our final two substitutes having been used (Reiss Nelson for Nicolas Pépé and Hector Bellerín for Mesut Özil), we managed to hold on through five minutes’ injury time to take maximum points from this incredibly close encounter here in North London today.
Looking at this match fairly and objectively, one could say that West Ham United may well feel robbed, as their efforts and possession stats came to nothing in the cold light of day (or night); but on the other hand, in football, you take your chances, and sometimes you pull it off. And today, despite all the danger, we pulled it off superbly, it has to be said. Okay, it was a fairly dull performance at times, but hey, in the greater scheme of things, who cares? The ends justify the means; we got three points, and at the time of writing, we are currently ninth in the Premiership, with a game in hand. With a little application, along with a wink from Lady Luck herself, we can do this; yes, we can finish fourth in the Premiership and win the FA Cup as well. It’s time to believe. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, 11th March at 7.30pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Steve

Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.

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