Arsenal 1 West Ham United 0
The weekend began slightly early this week. On Thursday night six of us gathered in the Herbert Chapman pub on Holloway Road for a charity pub quiz in the name of Arsenal F.C`s charity of the season Centrepoint. Our team, Chicken, Pat Rice and Peas, finished a respectable second place. A good evening was had by all with DJ Tayo from the "It`s Up For Grabs Now" podcast compeering and brain cells were lubricated with several jars. Over £300 was raised for Centrepoint, whose website can be found here. Right, that`s the plug over with. We converged on the Tavern slightly earlier than usual with Hon John crutch bound having well and truly van Persied his ankle playing five a-side and also to watch the Carling Cup draw which saw us pitted at home to Wigan Athletic. A couple of resounding wins on the road meant a more upbeat atmosphere abounded around the ground.
But West Ham came with a game plan to be organised and resolute (don`t they all?) and for the most part, executed it very well. Arsenal`s more creative players- Arshavin, Nasri, Fabregas- all had ordinary games by their own standards. Fabregas later revealed that tightness in his hamstring had inhibited his play. It`s very concerning that the problem continues to plague him. A lacklustre half was briefly lit up with a few Arsenal opportunities. Alex Song split the Irons defence with a telegraphed pass to Sagna down the right, Sagna cut the ball back to Fabregas unmarked ten yards out, but he lined the shot up too early, his body stretching to hit the shot and it was a fairly comfortable save from close range for Green. Arsenal lacked any sort of incision in the final third, there was a large gap between the midfield three and Chamakh and West Ham found it easy to deal with Arsenal`s attacks. So it was Song providing the creative hinge, it was he again who played a decent one two with Denilson, playing himself into the channel, but Song`s shot across goal was palmed out well by Green and Nasri could not redirect the rebound. The Gunners created little else of note, save for a Squillaci header from Nasri`s corner which was tipped over the bar by an uncharacteristically in form Rob Green. It had been an underwhelming half.
The home side tried to pick up the pace after half time and nearly took the lead with a quite outstanding strike. Boa Morte`s foul yielded a free kick thirty five yards out. Nasri took a one step run up and fooled everyone with a deceptive strike from distance which rattled the frame of the goal with Green off his line expecting the cross. Arsenal might have had a penalty too when Arshavin appeared to be bundled over in the area. I`ve yet to see the incident on any highlights package, but I simply cannot imagine why Arshavin would have fallen over so forcefully with the ball in his possession. But still the Gunners` toiling was to no avail, so Walcott came on for Denilson. Theo almost made the decisive impact when Fabregas played a ball to the right which sliced the Hammers defence in twain, Walcott made a beeline for goal, looked up and placed a good shot towards the corner, only to see the ball strike the inside of the post and bounce back into the grateful arms of Green. Hard to find fault with the finish, at that point, I was convinced it was going to finish 0-0. West Ham created little themselves, save for the odd set piece. Credit to Koscielny, Squillaci and Fabianski, who dealt with everything that came our way and did not put a foot wrong between them.
Along with Song, Bacary Sagna was one of our more sustained attacking threats. With Bendtner and Chamakh on by now, Banger sent a cross towards Bendtner which da Costa could only clear as far as Fabregas in the area, he took a touch and released a low shot which Green was equal to once again. Fabregas found Walcott on the right once again, he cut in onto his left foot and his deflected shot was again beaten out by Green. Chamakh collected the rebound only to be halted by the most disgraceful offside decision I have ever seen. Chamakh had four Irons` defenders a good five yards ahead of him. Being a linesman is a difficult profession that involves a lot of borderline calls, some of which are difficult to criticise when they are marginally incorrect. But any linesman that thinks Chamakh is offside there should not be gamefully employed in that occupation. A frustrating 0-0 looked to be on the cards when Song found Clichy on the left with a raking ball with the outside of his right foot. Clichy feinted inside Jacobsen onto his right foot. I think half of the stadium sheepishly looked on, not expecting much from Clichy`s right peg, but he clipped in a beautiful cross which Alex Song was on hand to bundle into the net for an air punching burst of relief.
It wasn`t pretty but we got the three points and narrowly deserved them. Though we were slightly off colour, we still created enough good chances to win the game. I doubt Robert Green will play better this season. The team deserves immense credit for their ever burgeoning collection of late goals, they really do keep going to the end and, as the manager pointed out, what is impressive is not only the attitude in their persistence, but that they manage to stay calm in these situations. The gap between midfield and the strikers enervated our attacking play at times, the introductions of Bendtner and Walcott helped eradicate them. Once again the attacking arsenal on the bench was critical, With the likes of Fabregas and Arshavin underperforming for the game, the likes of Sagna and Song stepped up to eke out the chances. The game won`t live long in the memory, but the points will stay on the board for the whole season.LD.
21.FABIANSKI, 3.SAGNA, 6.KOSCIELNY, 18.SQUILLACI, 22.CLICHY, 15.DENILSON (14.Walcott `67), 17.SONG, 4.FABREGAS(c), 8.NASRI, 23.ARSHAVIN (52.Bendtner `79), 29.CHAMAKH (27.Eboue `90). Unused: 7.Rosicky, 11.Vela, 20.Djourou, 53.Szczesny.