Arsenal (1) 2 West Ham United (1) 1
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Saturday, 19th September 2020. Kick-off time: 8.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Rob Holding, Gabriel Magalhães, Sead Kolašinac, Hector Bellerin; Dani Ceballos, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Willian Borges da Silva, Alexandre Lacazette; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Nicolas Pépé, David Luiz, Mohamed Elneny, Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock, Matt Macey.
Scorers: Alexandre Lacazette (24 mins), Eddie Nketiah (85 mins)
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 63%
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistant Referees: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett
Fourth Official: Darren England
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Chris Kavanagh; AVAR Neil Davies
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restructions
Our second Premiership match of the new season, and another London derby as well! It is to be noted however, that before we went into the match tonight, that Arsenal have won ten of our past eleven home games against West Ham United across all competitions, and that our opponents have lost thirty-one Premier League matches against us, more than against anyone else. Therefore. one could say that the omens are good for this, our first home game of the season. Let’s go!
The opening stages of the match appeared to be played mostly in our half, as the visitors decided to attempt to try to take the game to us, which came as some surprise to our defenders as they were put under pressure by a lively and creative West Ham United. We struggled to find our rhythm as our midfielders saw their passes go astray and the strikers were forced to come back to win the ball, as opposed to them being in the position to receive it. Bukayo Saka was caught offside when he ran onto a pass that took him into the visitors’ penalty area, and after twenty-four minutes, we took the lead when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ran onto a ball from Bukayo Saka and crossed the ball for Alexandre Lacazette to powerfully head the ball into the net, which unbelievably, was our first shot on target in the match. Of course, there was the usual VAR check when it was thought our captain was offside when he collected the ball, but thankfully the goal stood. This goal certainly fired some much-needed confidence in the team, and suddenly we looked in control. Ironically, there was a VAR check for a possible penalty against Gabriel a few minutes after we scored, but thankfully it wasn’t given as the VAR team decided that the ball didn’t hit him below the T-Shirt area, which is a new rule for this season, of course. In the minutes up to the break, we appeared to lose concentration at the wrong times; literally with a minute or so before first-half injury time, Michail Antonio equalised for the vistors with a well-taken goal from point-blank range. As our players went off for the half-time break, one could sense the feeling of disappointment amongst them, with a collctive realisation that they must do better in the second half.
With no half-time changes, we earnestly started the second half in good heart, with Bukayo Saka’s shot being pushed around the post by Lukas Fabianski for our first corner of the new half. Our passing was better, our movement off the ball suddenly became more urgent overall. Bernd Leno made an amazing save at close quarters from the feet of scorer Michail Antonio and this incident made us realise that danger could be upon us in a heartbeat. Somehow, we appeared to fall back into the same sluggish first half habits that got us into so much trouble; on the hour, Willian was substituted for Nicolas Pépé by Mikel Arteta in order to zip things up a bit. Obviously not, as shortly afterwards, chaos reigned when Michail Antonio’s header bounced off the crossbar, and Bernd Leno dropped the ball, falling awkwardly, but composed himself quickly enough to save a snap shot shot from Jarrod Bowen. That was a close run thing. Eddie Nketiah replaced Alexandre Lacazette to add yet more bite to the strike force with fifteen minutes remaining, which it did. Eventually. With five minutes of normal time remaining, Bukayo Saka released Dani Ceballos on the left, who deftly slotted the ball across the visitors’ penalty area for Eddie Nketiah to make no mistake from six yards. David Luiz was brought on for Bukayo Saka with minutes left of the match to shore things up at the back, and with four minutes’ injury time, his experience was desperately needed out there tonight. Thankfully the whistle was blown soon after, and three points was ours. Thankfully.
Let’s not dwell too much on the why’s and wherefore’s of this plodding, pedestrian, and at times, boring match. Let us just be thankful of the three points that we got here at the Emirates tonight. Yes, it could have gone badly wrong, but it didn’t. The visitors could have had a penalty, but they didn’t. At the end of the day, we scored two goals, we attained sixty-three percent possession, we have a one hundred percent record, and tonight Arsenal are second in the Premiership behind Everton. And that’s it.
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: Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Wednesday, 23rd September at 7.45pm (Carabao Cup). Victoria Concordia Crescit.
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.