West Ham United came across an Arsenal team on top of their game yesterday afternoon, and were swatted to one side as have many teams in recent months at the Emirates. We are finding the fluency and momentum that we all hoped for during the first half of this season.
Having come through a heavyweight fight on Monday night as winners, Arsène Wenger made 5 changes to that team, a considerable amount and yet the team produced a performance as good as we witnessed yesterday. Two of the players coming in; Oliver Giroud and Aaron Ramsey were the best players on the pitch but a lot of the attention was on Theo Walcott given the lack of playing time given from the manager.
It was Theo who had the first sniff of goal only minutes on the clock, Özil's guided pass into Giroud was flicked into the path of Walcott who ghosted into his favourite inside right channel, but he took too long and Collins took him out. Chris Foy did not see the foul and the West Ham player was lucky to stay on the pitch. To be fair, I didn't see the foul until the close up replay so not much complaint from me.
Theo Walcott is a chance magnet, his focus during matches is to get into scoring positions and whether he is sharp or not, invariably he manages to get those chances. Aaron Ramsey slipped him through later and his shot was straight at Adrian in the West Ham goal. He also had a great chance when Özil fired a right footed shot off the keeper but Theo had to stretch and could not control his finish.
His finishing was not what we expect of him but that is not the issue. He has not been playing regularly and is not in the same groove as the other players. The way I see it, the issue that Walcott has, is that he does not contribute in other ways. Whether that be keeping possession, winning tackles or defending set pieces, Theo becomes less important to the team. Having said all that, I hope we can come to some agreement and extend his contract. A sharp and confident Theo will take those chances and he will score and make important goals if given a chance in the team.
A player that does contribute to all areas of the pitch is Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey hasn't started for us in a while now following injury and a slow reintroduction to the team from the bench so his display took me by surprise. He was majestic from start to finish. With Santi Cazorla resting to the bench it was Ramsey who dropped deep to receive the ball from our centre backs and distribute the ball from there. Ramsey touched the ball more than anyone else on the pitch such was his involvement in the game.
The chemistry between Ramsey, Giroud and Özil was there from the very start. Those three players had developed that from last season and they all combined excellently on the stroke of half time producing one of our best team goals of the season, Giroud took the ball from Ramsey, swerved inside and smashed the ball high past Adrian in the West Ham goal.
West Ham came out in the second half with more purpose and willingness to take the game to Arsenal. A lot of their attacks were aimed to Diafra Sakho to try and get in behind us this is where Laurent Koscielny excelled.
It was the Frenchman's best game in a number of weeks. Mopping up and whipping the ball away from Sakho before moving it on to a red and white shirt. Calum Chambers had a good game going forward but not so impressive defensively. Matt Jarvis found a lot of space behind the ex Southampton player. Playing right back in a team that requires fullbacks to push forward may not suit Chambers but I really like him as a footballer. He has excellent feet in tight areas, a lot better than the average defender.
Francis Coquelin was brilliant once again without the ball. His recovery pace gives him a big advantage over Arteta and Flamini. His use of the ball was poor at times during the first half. It is strange because sometimes his passing between the lines or his long range chupped passes are top draw, it is just that sometimes he messes up the simple passes which can be vitally important to both starting attacks and not putting your defenders under pressure. This is why we often saw Aaron Ramsey drop deep to start attacks rather than the Frenchman.
West Ham did not manage to create a great deal and they wasted the ones they did manage to fashion. But Arsenal killed the game with a superb second. The goal was all about Oliver Giroud and his appreciation of those around him. He had the presence of mind to dummy a throw in that was aimed for him, he span and played a 1-2 to Ramsey to slam in on his left foot from close range. It was so instinctive and so quick that West Ham had no answer.
Arsenal would not have scored that goal in August, September or October. Today we have a very different looking team.
Alexis, Walcott and Özil had come off for Welbeck, Cazorla and Flamini and yet our cohesion was not affected, quite the opposite in fact. Cazorla looked as good as he has done in recent months when coming on, he combined wonderfully well with Giroud who dinked a return pass exquisitely in between two West Ham defenders and into Cazorla's path, the Spaniard rolled the ball across the box to the unmarked Flamini at the back post for 3-0.
VINE: Arsenal 3-0 West Ham. No primeiro toque na bola, Mathieu Flamini faz o terceiro para o Arsenal. http://t.co/FbBsBu7ZQT— Sports Central (@sportscscentral) March 14, 2015
Arsenal's spinal players; Koscielny, Ramsey and Giroud were Arsenal's better performers on the day. When your spine are playing well you have a decent chance of winning the game and that is what we managed to do quite comfortably in the end.
Credit must go to the manager for assembling a squad of this quality. We must not forget that this squad is relatively new in the making given the cut of many players in recent years when our income had increased. Winning one game in the first six Premier League fixtures means that a title challenge is highly unlikely this time round, but now that the squad is settled and a lot healthier, we could be better equipped next season but that is in the future.
Focus now turns towards Tuesday's trip to Monaco, a very difficult task but certainly not impossible.
Other Post West Ham stuff.