For those that believe in omens, the pre-match injury to Héctor Bellerin in the warm up (hamstring) and the injury to Kieran Tierney (28) with a dislocated shoulder during the West Ham Vs Arsenal fixture did little to lighten the mood of Arsenal supporters or suggest that Freddie Ljungberg would end the gunners winless run in the premiership.
Sead Kolasinac, who initially wasn’t even on the bench miraculously made it after Maitland Niles replaced the Spanish right back. The appropriately nicknamed Hulk, got a second rapid promotion to replace Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney, after he tangled with Antonio in an arm locking duel.
Off he went with his bruised banana shirt acting as a jazzy, makeshift sling and the rhythm of the West Ham Vs Arsenal game had all but disappeared with Tierney as he headed to the treatment room.
For the home team, Snodgrass appeared to cover every inch of grass, popping up all over the place like a politician on a door step prior to an election. The Scot was proving to be a West Ham superman, with an appetite that was completely foreign to the opposition. He lumbered into a 50/50 with Torreira, then upended Martinelli with a steamroller of a tackle and was eventually tripped by the toe of Tierney.
The West Ham Vs Arsenal fixture was always going to have a physical flavour. The Hammers weren’t exactly going to be sympathetic to an emotionally damaged Arsenal that couldn’t even win a game by default if the opposition didn’t turn up.
The returning Pepe looked as if he had a point to prove but like Arsenal’s luck at the moment, he was either just short or too long but what was clear was the passes that were in need of a polish.
West Ham were making a case for a goal and were enjoying large amounts of unfamiliar possession and space and in the 38th minute Arsenal gave away a fairly shoddy goal.
Creswell’s corner pinged around in the box waiting for someone to hit it or clear it and it was the Hammers old warhorse Mark Noble, who took the opportunity but it didn’t go very far at all. The ball finally fell to a combination of Rice and Fornals before ending up on the head of Ogbonna and the back or shoulder of Maitland Niles to wrong foot Leno, who was waiting for a ball that didn’t arrive.
1-0 to West Ham and the script was following its usual path with Arsenal conceding in a slightly theatrical, almost comical way, but conceding nonetheless.
Pepe and Kolasinac seemed the brightest Arsenal had to offer and you felt that the clubs record transfer would eventually prevail. By contrast West Ham’s David Martin, could have perhaps gone back down the tunnel for an unscheduled toilet break without his goal being troubled.
Half time arrived and there was a sense of more heartbreak and a difficult journey home because Arsenal were lumbering and seemed indifferent to the task ahead of them. Yet again there was no intensity or energy, they seemed content to plod up and down the pitch, hardly able to put more than two or three passes together. They were poor, dreadful in fact and it’s a mystery how so much talent can perform so badly, so often.
It could have been another tough evening for the interim manager and Ljungberg looked like a man who wanted to run on to the pitch, grab the ball, scream at a few players and then actually show them how to play with balls. The lack of passion and performance must make the Swede want remonstrate with his dry cleaner about his lack of clean suits.
Paul Scholes’ comment can still raise a smile at least.
Fans have recently questioned Ljungberg’s team selections which have favoured experience but one can see why. If the experienced internationals can’t cope under pressure, why would the young talent waiting in the wings ?
One such player, ignorant to the fragility of youth is Gabriel Martinelli, who had been the one name that many supporters wanted to see in this troubled side. It seemed that even if he couldn’t sprinkle his Brazilian magic on proceedings, he at least fired the imagination sufficiently and his inclusion in the side was universally welcomed.
Fans have felt that the youngster who has been described optimistically as the ‘New Ronaldo’ is always good for a goal and up he popped, for probably one of his most important thus far in the 60th minute of the West Ham Vs Arsenal game.
With Arsenal barely managing to keep pace, Torreira met Kolasinac’s stride with a slide rule pass and off went the most promoted man on the pitch into the box to provide Martinelli with a cross, which was dispatched with consummate ease. This boy is the ‘Best Buy’ since Thierry Henry, no doubt about that, he has it all.
Suddenly, Arsenal looked full of themselves and were able to fire the ball around like they were in a casual training session, the pressure was relieved but they’ve done this on numerous occasions and it’s ended badly.
Ozil, so often painted the slacker or as someone who really doesn’t care suddenly found his feet. In what has been a challenging and difficult season, the German playmaker began gobbling up the pitch and finding the right ball to punish West Ham.
All the best moves came from his boots and although you can’t excuse his absence from certain games, when he gets it right, it’s exceptional to watch. Many have questioned why Arsenal have been unable to unlock the potential of their striker force and some were even guilty of referring to Pepe as a waste of money.
Pepe was serving humble pie this particular evening and he put the Gunners ahead (66) in the West Ham Vs ARsenal fixture with a stunning goal. After receiving the ball from Aubameyang on the right, he cut back in and curled an exquisite effort beyond Martin.
If Arsenal are to get going, then they will need goals and Pepe is one of those players that can make the difference. This could be the confidence boost he needs and it could also unlock the potential of one of the most highly regarded stars on the planet.
Ask Mourinho or Guardiola if they’d like Pepe and the answer would be a resounding yes. Klopp would also integrate him into his current Liverpool side along with Martinelli, who he has already singled out this season.
Two fabulous goals and Arsenal could suddenly unearth their ‘A’ game and there was only one player left to finish off a great even for the front trio. Aubameyang had been prowling around waiting for an opportunity and Pepe obliged by delivering a beautiful and audacious ball into the box.
The Gabonese striker almost cartwheeled to get the connection and West Ham were put to the sword after another night when Arsenal looked to be collecting more criticism by handing the points to the opposition.
Nine magnificent minutes of true Arsenal quality was too much for Pellegrini’s West Ham and the signs are that he may be another managerial casualty if things don’t improve. He said:
“For 65 minutes there was only one team on the pitch,”
“But we must score the second goal to decide the game. If Arsenal had scored three times from seven chances, that would be different. The game was decided in three minutes. We need to concentrate more, be more consistent and more solid.”
He was right to feel hard done by, but Ljungberg perhaps deserved to finally receive his share of luck, having had to endure the previous 180+ minutes of abject football. His problems are far from over, but he afforded himself a smile over three typical and stylish Arsenal goals which give the club, him and the fans some hope.