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Four Key Things Learned as Arsenal Show How to Win Dirty Against an Unlucky West Ham

Arsenal v West Ham

Mikel Arteta’s reaction at the final whistle of the Arsenal v West Ham game at the Emirates said it all. He was jubilant, he was thankful but most of all, he looked relieved. The Spaniard saw his team win 2-1 with two isolated moments in a 90-minute game, which was mostly in favour of the gutsy and industrious Hammers.

Had Antonio been playing with someone who could share the workload, then West Ham might have got off the mark with a well-deserved three points, but they couldn’t turn their hard work into goals. According to betenemy, Arsenal’s defending occasionally became desperate, with everyone tracking back to repel the endless waves of attack.

Arsenal v West Ham
(Photo by Ian Walton – Pool/Getty Images)

Willian, usually referred to as a striker, did his fair share up the wrong end and Lacazette came to the rescue by chasing players and sitting tight on their shoulders. He’s becoming quite the all-rounder and even when he’s not on the scoresheet, he’s contribution is worth his inclusion in the team. Very underrated!

Anyway, let’s look at the reasons why the Gunners struggled in the Arsenal v West Ham game including how the Hammers made them look so ordinary:-

A. Compact And Organised:

West Ham seemed very well briefed and they held their shape fairly well, apart from the two goals they conceded. Moyes will no doubt rue the lack of concentration! The Hammers constantly closed down the available space, gave Arsenal very little time on the ball, and defended and attacked in numbers.

At times, there was a midfield blanket of four of five players with another three close behind them. Arsenal’s shape was severely tested and because of West Ham’s intensity, they looked second best for the majority of the game.

B. Identified Weaknesses:

West Ham players were constantly checking their lines and interchanging as required to wrestle away the initiative from Arsenal. Holding was identified as a weak link early on and when Bellerin was elsewhere, Holding looked vulnerable.

Arsenal looked skittish against corners and anything that was foisted high in the air. They seemed slightly hypnotised by the flight of the ball and Arteta will have to do some work on getting them to clear their lines quickly and aggressively.

The Hammers were quick to dispose of their hosts and intercept the large number of poor passes, which became a frustrating feature as the Arsenal v West Ham game wore on. 50/50 balls were being constantly snapped up and West Ham jumped on the end of anything loose or short, winning most of the second balls for the entire game.

Arseal v West Ham
(Photo by Ian Walton – Pool/Getty Images)

The Hammers’ line was high and they set up camp over Arsenal’s halfway line, which meant that the Gunners spent long periods pushed back defending. Arsenal weren’t creating anything and they failed to find Aubameyang, who looked lost roaming the left-flank but when the ball occasionally found him, he had at least four players converging on him in a square formation.

That formation could be seen across the pitch, especially in the middle, which nullified Arsenal for long periods of the match. David Moyes’ side’s weakness was that they lost concentration at two key points which saw them concede two goals and lose the Arsenal v West Ham game.

C. Xhaka And Ceballos Overwhelmed:

West Ham worked the channels well and their willingness to get forward without having someone of Aubameyang’s quality was heartening, but there were occasions when they will feel they should have got more out of this Arsenal v West Ham contest.

They outfought and outworked their midfield counterparts and the normal effortless partnership of Xhaka and Ceballos looked rusty and sluggish. The Spaniard never stopped working and justice was served when his effort was rewarded by setting up Eddie Nketiah in the 85th minute.

Yet, as he passed that ball, Arteta was preparing to relieve Ceballos of his duties, but as soon as the ball stretched the net, David Luiz became the third Arsenal substitute. If I’m honest, Xhaka has performed well under Arteta but this was his least impressive shift in some time. He lacked purpose and bite and had he presented himself in a slightly more physical way, the opposition would have been slightly more reluctant to travel through the heart of an Arsenal side stuck in first gear.

D. Arsenal Lack The Quality:

A win is a win and all three points are gratefully received, but Arsenal got lucky here and West Ham provided a reality check for those who talk up Arsenal’s title-winning chances. Ceballos is a very good, technically-gifted player, but he needs to be dominant or be part of a dominant partnership, which means that Arsenal will need to spend if they are to battle like this regularly.

You can’t keep soaking up pressure, especially when the quality of the opposition increases. I’m not detracting from West Ham’s performance but Arsenal were unable to think on their feet and force the pace at home. On this evidence, Arsenal need at least three more players because some of those on display for the Arsenal v West Ham encounter fell short of what’s required.

Bellerin was fairly anonymous, Xhaka was distinctly average, Holding lacked finesse and Willian looked washed out. The Brazilian wasn’t assisted in this match by a team that was hardly allowed forward and he’ll have better games.

The fact that Kieran Tierney was missing seemed to make quite a difference to the back three and I don’t see how Holding, Gabriel, and Kolasinac can remain together. Certainly, it won’t be long until Saliba is introduced or Luiz is drafted back into the fold to stiffen up the defence. Tierney’s prolonged absence would be a major concern because he has shown a fabulous work ethic and determination which Arsenal have lacked for so long.

I’m not sure that he would have been able to influence this game but his presence would have made the backline look and feel more solid, but Gabriel continued to look like someone who could captain the side in the future. He chatted with Kolasinac and appeared to be issuing instructions before kick-off and was shouting and pointing throughout when he was clattering into the West Ham players.

Magalhaes did have a few moments that weren’t quite so good, firstly a penalty claim that you could easily dismiss from one angle but not quite the other. Those in the VAR cabin were having a tea break and the claim was dismissed. The second was when Gabriel went to head the ball only to see it strike him on the upper left arm in the area. A let-off perhaps, but the associations need to tighten the rules for handball and dismiss the inevitable interpretation.

READ MORE: The Return of Supporters: The Answer Lies With the Individual Clubs

This was viewed as a dirty win by a majority of fans, but six points out of six with two well-taken goals will do nicely. It was rather heartwarming to reflect on the history of the club especially that of Herbert Chapman’s ‘Lucky Arsenal’ and George Graham’s ‘Boring Arsenal’.

Fans should not dismiss a hard-fought win or the points that come with it. Tell me Liverpool weren’t fortunate at the beginning of last season, that’s probably why they were referred to as ‘LiVARpool’. West Ham are in trouble already, with an unforgiving fixture list ahead. David Moyes will have seen much to increase his levels of optimism with the overall performance, but he needs a proven striker in place before the window shuts. Arsenal need a robust midfielder who can control the game and steady the ship when it starts rocking.

The Highbury Flyer
Anti Kroenke , anti Gazidis but always a gooner. Still wishes he could watch from the stands at the Highbury library.

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