I’m not looking to make any big or controversial statements in this blog, other than to say that Arsenal should brace themselves for more days like this and it’s abundantly clear that this side is still in the recovery position. This was a durable West Ham side, but nothing more and the visitors could have easily reversed this score if not for their dumb luck.
Arsenal were as flat as a Leonard Cohen song and with the same amount of passion. Arteta had obviously issued an instruction to take it easy on their fellow Londoners defence, why else would the attacks have been so ponderous and intermittent.
Arteta had two players to thank for the narrowest of victories and they were at either end of the pitch. Bernd Leno kept Arsenal in the hunt and Alexandre Lacazette pulled off an unlikely goal opportunity (78) after replacing Nketiah.
VAR was called upon for offside but for a change, the gunners got the rub of the green. No wonder the goal-shy Frenchman punched out from his waist, like Tyson Fury ripping into the stomach of Deontay Wilder. His relief was tangible and so was that of the frustrated supporters still hanging on to the hope of a top-four slot. If I were Arteta, I’d take the pressure off the players by ignoring that target altogether.
This match proved that the summer months require fresh faces and moreover, the departures of those robbing the club for a living. Early into the game against West Ham, Granit Xhaka decided to revert to his typical self by sloppily presenting Jarrod Bowen with a gift. Thankfully Leno’s right post wasn’t so generous.
Arsenal’s key moment was from Sokratis who powered a header on to the bar as if it had insulted his mother. Other than that, the supporters had little to cheer and the prospect of another uncomfortable afternoon looked a distinct possibility.
In the second half, Nketiah had a chance when Saka, who else, delivered a spicy pass but Fabianski managed to firefight for West Ham. This was another game that shows the imbalance between the possession statistics and actual chances because Arsenal probably had 65/70% of control but simply looked second best to their fellow Londoners.
Worse still, Arteta has the same problems come Monday morning because although this team is now a mere 5 points away from a top-four slot, they are going to find it tough to secure it on the evidence of this performance.