West Ham United (3) 3 Arsenal (1) 3
London Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London E20 2ST
Sunday, 21st March 2021. Kick-off time: 3.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Calum Chambers, David Luiz, Pablo Marí, Kieran Tierney; Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang; Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitutes: Gabriel Magalhães, Dani Ceballos, Rob Holding, Cédric Soares, Nicolas Pépé, Mohamed Elneny, Emile Smith-Rowe, Mat Ryan, Gabriel Martinelli.
Scorers: Tomas Soucek (own goal) (38 mins), Craig Dawson (own goal) (61 mins), Alexandre Lacazette (82 mins)
Yellow Cards: Alexandre Lacazette
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 63%
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Assistant Referees: Marc Perry, Dan Robathan
Fourth Official: Graham Scott
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Martin Atkinson; AVAR Scott Ledger
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions
After the incredible success of last Sunday’s North London derby at the Emirates, we travel a few miles down the road to the London Stadium to lock horns with West Ham United today, who are, at the time of writing, lying fifth in the Premiership table, seven points and five places above ourselves. The good thing about today’s match is that we have claimed thirteen points from London Premiership derbies so far, more than any other side this season, and we have accrued twenty away points in this campaign, equalling last season’s entire tally! The omens are good, so let’s start as we mean to go on, and finish victorious. Let’s go!
Right from the start, the pace of the match became obvious as both sides showed their competitive edge in order to win this game at the London Stadium today. However, having said that, West Ham certainly started the more sparkier of the two teams, playing a close passing game, crossing balls constantly into our penalty area, seemingly at will. After a quarter of an hour, we went one down, when Jesse Lingard found himself unmarked on the edge of our penalty area; he collected a ball from Michail Antonio, controlled it and drilled it past Bernd Leno and into our net. A couple of minutes later, we were two down when Jesse Lingard caught our defence sleeping as we appeared to switch off from a West Ham free-kick just outside the penalty area. He slotted the ball to Jarrod Bowen, who took a shot from from a tight angle and the ball squeezed through Bernd Leno’s grasp at the near post and into the net. Basically, we just went to sleep at the wrong time, and before we knew it, we were two down within twenty minutes of the start. A few minutes later, Martin Ødegaard had a great shot from outside the West Ham penalty area, but the ball deflected up into the air and down into Lukasz Fabianski’s hands. After the half hour mark, we appear to have steadied a bit, but unfortunately had not really threatened the home side at all at this point of the proceedings. Incredibly, we were three down after thirty-two minutes when a cross from Vladimir Coufal found the head of Michail Antonio, who headed the ball down for Tomas Soucek to guide it into our net. We came back at West Ham immediately, and through sheer hard work and determination, we got a goal after thirty-seven minutes when Calum Chambers crossed from the right and found Alexandre Lacazette, who swivelled around and scored a fabulous, strong goal, which clipped Tomas Soucek on its journey into the back of the net. The goal was exactly what we needed, as both Bukayo Saka and Thomas Partey were unlucky not to score with well-taken shots just minutes afterwards, and in injury time, Bukayo Saka was unlucky not to score, when his close shot bounced off a defender and hit the side netting. So close to getting a second goal before the break, but it was not to be, sadly.
We started the second half very well, and Alexandre Lacazette was unlucky not to score when his looping shot went over Lukasz Fabianski and was kicked off the line by Issa Diop acrobatically. We pressed the home side back into their own half, and when Bukayo Saka was played through, it looked like we would get our second goal of the match, but the goalkeeper smothered the ball to deny him his scoring chance. Time and time again we were desperately trying to score, with Alexandre Lacazette setting an example to the rest of the team in his never-say-die attitude. Just after the hour, we finally got our second goal of the match, when Calum Chambers received the ball out on the right side courtesy of a quick Alexandre Lacazette free-kick, and a low cross into the West Ham penalty area saw defender Craig Dawson panic and kick the ball into his own net. Back in the match! However, the home side came back at us, and we saw some superb defending from Kieran Tierney to first block Jarrod Bowen’s shot from close range and then also keep out Michail Antonio’s goalbound shot, but he couldn’t have known much about the second shot as it hit him whilst he was still on the ground! The match became one of real end-to-end stuff now, and with eighteen minutes of the match remaining, Emile Smith-Rowe and Nicolas Pépé replaced Bukayo Saka and Granit Xhaka, and we pushed forward in earnest to try and grab an equaliser. We were fortunate not to concede a fourth goal when Michail Antonio hit the post from point-blank range, and as the energy levels rose, the competitive edge of both sides became frenetic. With ten minutes of the match remaining, Gabriel Martinelli replaced Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and almost immediately, a cross from the right hand side via Nicolas Pépé found the head of Alexandre Lacazette, who grabbed the equaliser with eight minutes of the match remaining. Can we grab the winner now? Both goalkeepers were called into action in the final minutes, with the match getting quicker and quicker as the end was in sight. David Luiz narrowly missed the ball when it flew into the penalty area from a Martin Ødegaard free-kick, and in injury time, Alexandre Lacazette received a booking for committing a silly foul that gave a free-kick away which was punched into safety by Bernd Leno, and despite one or two incidents, we finished the match with exactly how we started, with a point.
A neutral observer will be thoroughly entertained by this match today, but for us, it was a total nightmare. We were literally all over the place in the first half, and conceding three goals in that manner was a disaster. We looked a side that was completely and resoundly beaten at the end of the first half, but somehow we came back and got a point from a desperate situation, in which at times, looked as if there was no hope whatsoever. Calum Chambers was superb, as was Martin Ødegaard; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang appeared to be asleep for large periods of the game, along with Pablo Marí, but the worrying thing is that our defence is completely porous, and just leaks goals consistently. Mikel Arteta needs to plug this gap in the close season, otherwise this embarrassing situation will carry on well into next year. This match was not so much a point retained, but three lost. So very disappointing.
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: Liverpool at the Emirates on Easter Sunday, 4th April at 4.30pm (Premier League). 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.