Arsenal closed in on a top four place after their 2-1 win against West Ham United at Upton Park on Sunday afternoon.
Wenger made some changes to the team that beat QPR on Boxing Day with Chamberlain returning and Coquelin taking the place of Rosicky, while Koscielny returned to the starting line-up pushing Monreal into his favoured left-back position.
The Gunners started the game on the back foot with West Ham constantly pressurising the defence and the Hammers were rewarded for their dominance when Song hammered a volley from a corner, only to be ruled out by the linesman who raised a flag for off side.
It was a see-saw battle from then on as both teams created some good chances only to be let down by their finishing. The Hammers adopted the tactics of constant pressing while the Gunners were countering on the break. The half seemed to be heading towards a dead lock, but Arsenal had other ideas. Cazorla drove into the box after some good work, but was brought down by Winston Reid and the Spaniard dispatched the resulting penalty into the bottom corner.
The Gunners continued their onslaught after the goal and were immediately rewarded as Chamberlain used his pace to get past the defender and put in a beautiful cross for Welbeck to make it 2-0 going into the half time.
We started the second half on the defensive and West Ham took advantage, as Kouyate out jumped Debuchy from a corner to make it 2-1 around the hour mark. Once they scored the equaliser it turned out to be a cat and mouse game, as both sides continuously exchanged attacks.
Arsenal had the better of the chances but West Ham goalkeeper Adrian managed to keep them at bay. We had some 3-4 good shots on target that were saved by Adrian and as we approached the final whistle Wenger brought on Gibbs and Chambers. The Hammers had their chances in the last 10 minutes but could not bury them, including the one in the last seconds of the game when Valencia couldn’t find the target with the header.
Overall it was a good performance from the Gunners and a welcome change as Wenger changed his strategy of attacking football to a more defensive one, as he started with 2 defensive midfielders which was quite unusual for the boss, but considering the aerial threat West Ham possesses it was a right decision.
Hopefully he will continue to change his formation depending on the games. We are now equal on points with Southampton and if we can beat them on New Year’s Day we will be in the top four.
Here are the player ratings.
Szczesny – 8.5/10 : Had an excellent game and commanded his area very well. He was great in collecting the crosses and wasn’t to be blamed for the goal.
Mertesacker – 7.5/10 : He was good in the air and dealt well with Carroll. Made a decisive header at the far post to deny Carroll of a goal.
Koscielny – 7.5/10 : He was at his best to day and was it was an impressive return for the Frenchman from injury. His presence seems to have brought a solidarity to the defence.
Debuchy – 5.5/10 : Was very poor in defence and was to be blamed for the goal. He allowed far too many crosses from his side and he isn’t looking his usual self after returning from injury.
Monreal – 6/10 : Struggled to cope up with Amalfitano at times and allowed the cross to come in which resulted in the goal.
Flamini – 6/10 : He was neither bad nor good. It was a performance somewhere in between, but he did what he was asked to.
Coquelin – 7/10 : He was very impressive for an youngster making his first League start. He covered lots of ground and make some crucial tackles. Very Good.
Oxlade-Chamberlain – 8/10 : Impressive. His pace and running created a constant menace for the Hammers defence. Assisted Welbeck for the second goal and had couple of chances to score but just couldn’t find the back of the net.
Cazorla – 7.5/10 : He was good but not at his best. Helped out in the defence when needed and scored the opening goal with a bit of fortune. Should have scored more in the second half.
Sanchez – 8/10 : Surprisingly he didn’t score a goal or assisted any other, but worked very hard and gave West Ham all sorts of problems. Could have scored a goal if not for Adrian’s superb save.
Welbeck – 8/10 : Scored the all important second goal and could have had atleast one or two more only to be denied by the heroics of the West Ham keeper.
Gibbs – N/A : Came on for Welbeck in the final few minutes. Did his part in preventing the equaliser.
Chambers – N/A : Came on for Chamberlain in extra time.
What did you think of Arsenal’s performance?