A trip away to Upton Park was going to be potential banana peel. Not that our players were gonna have any problems with anything on the ground. It was the clash of contrasting styles, as Sam Allardyce told his players to make the ball airbourne at every opportunity, while our own Arsene Wenger, as we know, focussed on creating poetry in motion with passing along the ground. This game could have easily been a drab draw, it really felt like it as the game entered the final 20 minutes or so. Luckily for us, our new boys once again showed their world-class abilities and ensured we walked away winners.
The manager still had a decision to make in central midfield with Diaby out. It is hard to replace a player of that class. He is a box to box midfielder with both attacking and defensive qualities. Would he go for the defensive minded Coquelin to partner Arteta or the more attack minded, in-form Aaron Ramsey? In the end he went for Ramsey.
Once again, with the benefit of hindsight, this may have been a wrong decision. Ramsey got way too tight on Diame which allowed him to get away too easily, and led to the opening goal. It was extremely frustrating, given that for the first 20 minutes or so it felt like West Ham hadn’t even touched the ball.
Unlike the Mertesacker decision for Chelsea I will not nearly be as harsh on this decision. Ramsey was a man in form, and although he didn’t directly influence anything in attack, he looked very confident on the ball, and looked like a man in form. I think most people would have started Ramsey ahead of Coquelin, so it is not right to criticise this decision.
Also, on a side note, I find it very disappointing that some Arsenal fans I see on twitter tend to have this witch hunt against Ramsey, like everything is his fault when we are losing. Given what he’s been through, given his age, he’s still been able to punch above his weight. Remember, this kid chose us over Manchester United, he broke his leg and has come back stronger, he’s committed to us. He has tremendous potential and could potentially become one of Arsenal’s greats. This isn’t the right way to support him, especially given there are other players in the club who are actually underperforming.
The other big change was Giroud starting as striker, with Gervinho starting on the right. This move was a master stroke, we needed someone in the middle to counteract Sam Allardyce’s physical and aerial game. Giroud was the man and he had a fantastic game. While he hasn’t started every game, he is an important member of this squad for games such as these where his physical attributes are crucial.
Stand out performer
What can I say about Santi Cazorla? The manager himself said after the game that he is a ‘pleasure to watch’. I think that sums it up beautifully. His ambidexterity makes it very difficult for defenders, it essentially doubles the work for them, and gives us twice the opportunities in attack. He was very influential all game.
Sometimes our boys make a sexy counter attack look so easy, we fail to see the little touches of class, touches performed to perfection involved in putting on a putting a masterful move together. For second goal, Cazorla received the ball from our box after a West Ham attack, the counter attack was on, but it had to be timed. He cleverly, waited and waited for the perfect moment, drew two defenders, allowing the space for Giroud, before he played in the perfect delicate pass. Walcott cleverly jogged so that he wasn’t offside, knowing his pace would get him there once the ball was played. Giroud gently stepped into the ball, allowing it to arrive just in front of Walcott for him to unleash his pace. Then came the finish, all the way along the ground, with just enough bend to get it around Jaaskelainen. It looks easy, but each piece of the puzzle needs fall into place perfectly for the end result. Cazorla may not have played much part near the end, but he started the move, and created the space, and arguably had the most to do.
Then there was the strike to seal the deal. As straight as an arrow into the top corner, a peach from 25 yards out. A strike worthy of winning any game.
Giroud was wonderful too. Can’t fault him for his effort, had a few decent chances, before scoring a great goal. Never easy to score a volley like that, but he knew what he was doing, caught the defence off guard and flung his leg forward. A much needed equaliser before half time. His assist for Walcott as discussed was great too. He has definitely silenced the critics for the time being.
Areas of concern/The opposition
I was concerned at the amount of balls Andy Carroll was winning. Credit to Mertesacker and Co they did defend well, but why not stop the problem at its source, rather than letting it happen and fixing it later? West Ham were growing more and more confident and came out in the second half with a decent chunk of possession, and at times were bombing forward for the flick ons knowing that Andy Carroll would win those headers. Unfortunately for them they couldn’t make it count.
The numbers game
Out of 41 top-flight goals, Cazorla’s scored 24 with his right foot & 17 with his left.
3 – Aerial Duels won by Olivier Giroud (of 5 attempted)
9 – Successful passes by Olivier Giroud in West Ham’s Final Third
1 – Chances Olivier Giroud created
1 -Assists by Olivier Giroud
8 – shots on goal by Giroud
11 – Aerial Duels won by Mertesacker and Vermaelen
16 – Aerial Duels lost by Mertesacker and Vermaelen
“We were mentally strong because we were 1-0 down with their first shot on goal, and to come back and win the game in a convincing way, I’m very proud of my team and it’s good for the future to win here.”
It is important for us to win games like this. I, like many other fans were furious after conceding that goal, given the circumstances. It was important for us to be mentally strong away from home and let our class prevail.
A mentally strong performance, a game in which we unleashed our class to turn a draw into a win. Unfortunately the momentum from this win may be halted due to the long international break.