Arsenal (0) 2 West Ham United (0) 0
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Wednesday, 15th December 2021. Kick-off time: 8.00pm
(4-4-1-1) Aaron Ramsdale; Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, Gabriel Magalhães, Kieran Tierney; Bukayo Saka, Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka, Gabriel Martinelli; Martin Ødegaard; Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitutes: Emile Smith-Rowe, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Rob Holding, Nicolas Pépé, Nuno Tavares, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Mohamed Elneny, Eddie Nketiah, Arthur Okonkwo.
Scorers: Gabriel Martinelli (47 mins), Emile Smith-Rowe (87 mins)
Yellow Cards: Gabriel Martinelli, Aaron Ramsdale
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 57%
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Assistant Referees: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn
Fourth Official: Peter Bankes
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Chris Kavanagh; AVAR Sian Massey-Ellis
If we can chalk up another home win tonight, in this white-hot London derby atmosphere, then our subsequent victory will see us leapfrog our visitors (as well as Manchester United), and attain fourth position in the Premiership; of course, our opponents tonight, West Ham United, will also demand success as they too, wish to advance further up the table as well. Either way, we can expect an exciting match here tonight, we can all be sure of that!
Before tonight’s match, everyone in the stadium gave a minute’s applause in memory of 1971 “double” winner, Ray Kennedy, who passed away recently. The match started off with both teams treating each other rather gingerly in the early stages, with very few tackles being committed by either side, and passes going here, there and everywhere. After a free kick conceded by Thomas Partey, the visitors eventually fired the effort high and wide, and within a minute or so, it was our turn for a free kick to be awarded, when Alexandre Lacazette was fouled by Declan Rice. Granit Xhaka’s shot bounced off the West Ham defensive wall, and then the first incident of the match happened, when it looked like Kieran Tierney was elbowed by Vladimir Coufal; referee Anthony Taylor decided nothing was too bad, and gave a free kick to us which went nowhere sadly. The match started to pick up a bit after these early incidents, and we started to dominate the match, playing a good, strong, high-press game. Anthony Taylor went over to the Arsenal bench to speak to the backroom staff over an infringement, and in this close contest, Michail Antonio went to the floor after grappling with Thomas Partey, in which the West Ham striker came off second best. And still we kept coming forward; Bukayo Saka went down in the visitors’ penalty area, when he drew back his left foot to shoot on goal, but he caught Arthur Masuaku in the process. Neither player was injured badly, and our domination continued. Just before the half hour mark, we had a penalty appeal denied when Alexandre Lacazette went down in the West Ham penalty area after getting contact with the ball, and although the match was a bit over-spirited at times, Arsenal were certainly the best side on the pitch at this point in the game. We were fortunate not to be one goal down, when totally gainst the run of play, Pablo Fornals curled a long range effort from the edge of the penalty area that just went by Aaron Ramsdale’s left hand post, and this incident merely spurred the visitors to wake up and bring the game to us, with Arthur Masuaku shooting side of the Arsenal goal, thankfully. With five minutes of the first half remaining, a massive sliding block from Craig Dawson prevented Martin Ødegaard scoring, but the ball fell to Kieran Tierney, who whacked a twenty yard effort that Lukasz Fabianski tipped onto the bar. This is now our best period of the match so far; Alexandre Lacazette’s shot was pushed away by Lukasz Fabianski, then Gabriel Martinelli followed up but with the West Ham keeper scrambling to his knees to apply pressure he shot wide. No goals at half-time, but lots of intelligent, exciting play from our chaps.
Arsenal kicked off the second half, and within a minute of the restart, a good movement saw Bukayo Saka blast the ball over the bar. A minute later, we scored the opening goal of the night when young Gabriel Martinelli made a move and charged on to collect Alexandre Lacazette’s neat pass before stroking a precise, low shot into the bottom corner of the West Ham net. A superb goal. This certainly inspired us, and we came forward, hunting, looking for more goals. The visitors tried to catch us on the break, but Jarrod Bowen’s shot was tipped away by Aaron Ramsdale shortly afterwards. Alexandre Lacazette was brought down just outside the visitors penalty area, and a well-taken free kick was taken by Martin Ødegaard that was well saved by Lukasz Fabianski, who dived correctly to his left hand side, after which Gabriel Martinelli was booked for a pointless infringement on the West Ham goalkeeper. The visitors then had a period of bringing the match to us and made several spirited attempts to score, all of which failed, thankfully. Emile Smith-Rowe replaced Martin Ødegaard after sixty-four minutes, and a minute or so later, we had a penalty awarded to us when Vladimir Coufal brought down Alexandre Lacazette; the West Ham man received a red card, and Lukasz Fabianski saved it! With the visitors down to ten men, Arsenal now had a significant advantage, not just with numbers, but tactically as well. Hearts were in our mouths when Takehiro Tomiyasu headed the ball back and past Aaron Ramsdale, but coolly, our goalkeeper recovered to pick the ball up with no problems at all. With fifteen minutes of the match remaining, Gabriel was unlucky not to score, when his acrobatic scissor kick sent the ball inches wide of the post, and after a superb movement, Bukayo Saka was desperately unlucky not to score when his left footed shot was blocked by a West Ham defender. Gabriel Martinelli was replaced by Eddie Nketiah with eight minutes of the game remaining, and suddenly, the visitors were putting us under pressure desperately looking for a goal. It mattered not, as with three minutes of the match left on the clock, we broke at speed and Bukayo Saka found Emile Smith-Rowe, who cut inside and fired the ball the other way into the bottom corner for our second goal of the evening. Alexandre Lacazette was replaced by Nuno Tavares, and almost immediately, West Ham were awarded a free kick just outside our penalty area for an infringement by Thomas Partey. The wall did its job and the danger passed. In the five minutes’ injury time, we had one or two opportunities to grab a third, but the match ended with a two-nil win for Arsenal.
Tonight, all in all, the chaps did very well indeed. We were by and large the dominant team out there tonight, and at times, it looked as if they were going to get three or four goals from open play, but hey, it was a great result, and tonight we are fourth in the Premiership. Now, who would have thought that was possible back in “Bloody” August? There were some outstanding performances tonight; Aaron Ramsdale, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli were truly exceptional, and Alexandre Lacazette, Kieran Tierney and Takehiro Tomiyasu were excellent too. Let’s see if we can continue this winning formula at Elland Road late on Saturday afternoon, and to go into the Christmas period being fourth in the Premiership (and semi-finals of the Carabao Cup, hopefully), would be a fabulous Christmas present for us all. We’ll see.
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: Leeds United at Elland Road on Saturday, 18th December at 5.30pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. 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.