A Game Of Three Thirds

Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be able to report on an Arsenal victory! Yes, the mighty West Ham United were put to the sword on their home ground by a rampant Arsenal on a cold and blustery East London evening. Well, if only that were true ...


For an hour, Arsenal were utterly abysmal, and I was starting to wonder if they were ever going to win another Premier League game. Because, and in case you aren't aware, West Ham are a really poor side; yet they were leading and frankly comfortably holding an Arsenal side that looked terrified to do anything with the ball. Which was bizarre, because West Ham were very happy to let them have it.

To be fair, Arsenal suffered a good deal of misfortune during that first hour, and not all of it was of their own making. Bellerin was forced to withdraw from the side during the warm-up, and Kieren Tierney fell badly onto a shoulder after a tussle with Antonio; hopefully it's minor, but it didn't look that way.

But as to what was of their own making; well, they looked very tentative in possession, moved the ball ponderously, and looked frightened to do anything but play the safe ball every time. The lack of confidence was quite obvious. And whilst West Ham are really not very good, they made far more of their far more meagre possession than Arsenal. In fact, I don't recall a single decent opportunity created throughout a dreadful first half, when it looked like the nightmare would never end.

Freddie Ljunberg had made some interesting changes, drafting in Chambers at centre-back for Luiz, and giving Martinelli his first Premier League start. Chambers was solid, and Martinelli found himself on the fringes from his left-wing position for much of the first half, but still showed flashes of both ability and desire.

The problem, however, is still in midfield, where Xhaka had a truly dreadful game; epitomised by an awful 30-yard cross-field ball that ought to have led to a goal.

It looks like it's time for Guendouzi to come back in and replace him on Sunday. Torreira, however, was considerably better in a more withdrawn role; yet still looking to move the ball forwards when he could.

For the West Ham goal, which came from a corner, I counted no less than five individual Arsenal errors in a ten-second period. None of Martinelli, Aubameyang, Kolasinac, Xhaka (especially) and Maitland-Niles covered themselves in glory there.

One would have expected Arsenal to have come out blazing in the second half, but for 15 minutes it was more of the same. It was clear that nothing that Freddie had said to them had made a difference, and that they needed to self-start; somehow. Because there is enough individual quality in the side to make the difference; especially - and I'll say it again - against opposition this poor. West Ham are possibly the worst side in the division, from what I've seen - although Watford are clearly pretty bad too, and I don't think much of Bournemouth either.

And then, after just under an hour, a switch was flicked. A flowing move from which Torreira's astute ball out wide found the overlapping Kolasinac, and his pull-back was side-footed home by the busy Martinelli, who had made an intelligent run. It just might be that the 18-year-old future superstar has been the one ot kickstart Arsenal's season.

And from then on the result was a foregone conclusion, as West Ham heads dropped and fatigue started to catch up with them. First Pepe, with a trademark cut in and left footed curling finish, and then then Aubameyang (inevitably) - all three goals in the space of nine minutes and something of the Arsenal swagger was back.

However - and I'll say it yet again - we have to take this result with a huge pinch of salt. The opposition was dire, and bigger tests are very close on the horizon with a wounded Manchester City - an entirely different kettle of fish - due at the Emirates on Sunday. It'll only be after that game that we'll be able to see if this result was anything more than a flash in the plan.

But for now let's bask in that rare feeling - we've actually won a game. So here's a thumbs up from Freddie!

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