Arsenal 5-1 West Ham: a season in 90 minutes

Nearly everything we know or think we know about Arsenal played out in 112 minutes at the Emirates stadium last night as Arsenal cruised to a 5-1 win over a dreadful and dirty West Ham United. In fact, in many ways last night’s game was a microcosm of Arsenal’s season and perhaps even a microcosm of Arsenal over the last 5 years.

First there was the now customary limp first half performance followed by a much more determined second half. As I point out in my By the Numbers column, Arsenal have just a +3 goal difference in the first half of their League games this season. It’s not that Arsenal have a hard time scoring goals in the first half of games, they have 20 goals, it’s more that they allow teams to score on them having conceded 17. In the second half, those numbers change dramatically and Arsenal have 26 goals and have only conceded 10. That’s a +16 goal difference, the highest among the top clubs.

And so it was against West Ham. The Hammers struck first in the 18th minute off a Jack Collison wonder-goal. Arsenal failed to clear a corner and the ball fell to an unmarked Collison who simply hit the ball hard. Both Mertesacker and Giroud charged the shot down but parted like the red sea leaving Szczesny unsighted and with no chance of saving.

How many times this season have we seen a player (Arsenal or otherwise) simply refuse to block a shot? Too many in my mind. And how many times in the last 5 years have we seen Arsenal fail to clear their lines on a corner kick? That’s right, eleventeen: which is so many times that I no longer get nervous. I’m resigned to the fact that Arsenal concede goals when they fail to clear corners and set pieces.

What defines whether Arsenal get points now isn’t whether we concede but rather how we hustle to get back into or stay in games. Against Chelsea, Arsenal’s balls seemed to shrivel up and suck back into their body. But against West Ham, they “grew a pair” and matched Allardyce’s men in the physical battle despite suffering several tackles which should have seen red.

Podoski’s shot to level the two teams was an unstoppable blast from outside the box set up by a delicious little ball from Wilshere. But it wasn’t that goal which truly impressed, it was the 15 minutes after the second half kicked off. Arsenal won every tackle in that period, won every header, and won every dribble, and for a few minutes it truly seemed like every pass went into the net, all planned as well.

The goal on the 47th minute was training ground stuff; Walcott took the corner and played it low and hard into the near post where Olivier Giroud had made a run. The big Frenchman clipped the ball into the net and my jaw hit the floor: I didn’t know the two of them had that goal in them.

From that point on, West Ham showed why they have dropped so precipitously from their lofty early season League table position. They disintegrated under a withering 10 minutes from Arsenal. 10 minutes which saw Arsenal score three more goals, each seemingly more unbelievable than the last. In the end, Podolski scored just the one goal, but he did gather 3 assists to his name, a feat not seen since Walcott managed in the League cup v. Reading.

After the 5th goal, the game was largely academic. Arsenal stuck the car in cruise control and Cazorla decided to start shooting from all over the pitch. There was a scary moment in the game when Danny Potts was stretchered off with a concussion. My thoughts go out to the youngster and hopes for a speedy recovery.

But if you have any doubt that Allardyce sends his men out to kick Arsenal around just watch that game again — it’s all long balls and over-the-top tackles. Vaz Te raked Mertesacker’s Achilles and elbowed Wilshere in the head. Jack Collison somehow, miraculously, failed to break Jack Wilshere’s leg with a disgusting tackle which should see retroactive punishment but won’t. To see the series of screen shots, head on over to the 7amkickoff Facebook page – how is Wilshere not in the hospital today? Even Momo Diame, supposedly auditioning for a gig at Arsenal, got into the action with a studs-up tackle on Mertesacker in the dying minutes of the game.

But as I said from the start, those tackles shouldn’t surprise anyone because we’ve seen them plenty this year already and the last five years far too often — in the very last game RamiressssssSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS got away with an absurd tackle which led to Chelsea’s first goal an then got away with a series of egregious fouls after that to rub salt in the wound. Arsenal were lucky to escape without any injury, though I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Wilshere is out for a few weeks after this:

Trod upon

And so it is that Arsenal go from one game to the next, from one half to the next, and even from just part of a half to the whole game putting in a wildly variable performance. Statistically Arsenal are better this year than last: same number of points after 23 games (37) but far superior goals scored (46 v. 39) and a better defense (27 v. 33) resulting in a much better goal difference (+19 v. +6). But it’s consistency that’s the hallmark of top clubs and if there is anything different about this season compared to the last, it’s that Arsenal “lack a little bit the consistency” they have shown over Arsene Wenger’s tenure.

If there’s one thing that Arsenal fans wish for it’s that the club put in performances like the one against West Ham and Swansea every match. If Arsenal did that, I don’t even think people would mind so much if the club finished in 6th place. Ironically, if they do work their socks off for the rest of the season, there’s no way they will finish 6th.


15 thoughts on “Arsenal 5-1 West Ham: a season in 90 minutes

  1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1stynyr

    Just a quick note. I lol’d hard reading ‘Liverpoop’ just now. That’s all. Great win. Come on ARSENAL.

  2. Vote -1 Vote +1CarsonWells


    On another note, I have a theory you can judge the tactics of the opposition by how much dirt is on Jack Wilshere’s socks at the end of the game.

    I was majorly disappointed not to see the Arsenal Shuffleboard in your BTN post. Why do I have the right to be disappointed? Good question!

  3. +5 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

    Vaz Te, what a f***ing c*nt! Same guy that managed to separate his shoulder after deliberately stamping on Mannone. Is this his first game back since then?

    One of the more perplexing things about this season has been the refs tacit approval of the targeting of Wilshere for some truly horrific tackles. I can only imagine the fall out if Rooney had suffered the fouls Jack has been subjected to. Fergie would’ve gone ballistic, the assembled press would have nodded in agreement, and headlines would’ve been generated against the PGMOL. Meanwhile, is Arsene so resigned over the rough treatment given to Arsenal players that he doesn’t even mention it anymore. If Jack gets an ankle smashed into pieces, will the reaction be that Wenger was somehow at fault? I just don’t get how the English press can turn a blind eye to the savior of the English national team being routinely targeted by English teams.

  4. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1vladiziv

    I haven’t seen it anywhere mentioned how BFG “made a block” to speak in basketball terminology for the corner kick goal.
    He was as usual the first, where he usually tries to flick it on, but this time before the corner turned back and upwards meeting Giroud’s man and slightly nudging him off the course..
    obviously practiced, but haven’t seen it mentioned in any of the match reports…

    those 15 minutes were really something…

    1. +6 Vote -1 Vote +1OnlyOneKing14

      “I haven’t seen it anywhere mentioned how BFG “made a block” to speak in basketball terminology for the corner kick goal.” Its actually called a screen in basketball. contrary to popular belief Arsenal is still a top club with top facilities, and Wenger still a top manager. So have faith, remember there are still “Scums” of the earth.

  5. +3 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    Excellent summary of a vintage Arsenal performance we have all longed for. Through 1/4 of the game, it looked like Wenger had turned back time to 2004.

    Of course now the question is: was just that a cameo appearance of the Arsenal we all want to see much more of, or will the newly grown pair shrivel up again and disappear for Saturday’s FA Cup tie?

    “When Arsenal click as they did for 12 whirlwind minutes at the beginning of the second half, it can feel as if all of their problems, the well-documented angst and the soul-searching, are nothing more than tricks of the imagination.”
    - David Hynter, The Guardian

  6. +6 Vote -1 Vote +1alabamagooner

    Aw, Tim. No love for Ramsey’s performance last night? Good stuff from him, back in the middle of the park.

    Besides playing in his preferred position, I wonder how much Aaron’s improved form has to do with Jack? How long has it been since he played in midfield with someone that actually wanted him to be there? And I think Jack does want Aaron to be there. Jack just exudes confidence, and he seems to be the type that tries to pass it on. Can’t imagine what their pre match conversation was like, but I’ll bet it was encouraging.

    Best thing I saw on Twitter yesterday? “All this fuss about the ball boy. Arsenal fans have been giving a Welsh kid a good kicking all season.” Here’s hoping this is the beginning of the end of all that crap. I’m under no illusions that he won’t stumble again, but yesterday was a great start.

  7. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Zeddington

    We played great, but as Tim Stillman says on Arseblog today/yesterday, our problem this season has been that our good play seems to come in batches – and you alluded to this in your By The Numbers column. Our goal difference may be far superior to last year – and about half of that due to better defending, but the increase in goals scored is in games like this one where we score a ton. While it speaks highly of the potential of this time when it clicks, it hasn’t translated into more points. Perhaps, if the confidence comes and stays, and some tactical tweakery brings out the best of our midfield and forward line, we’ll see more wins.

    Also, hats off to Ramsey. I predicted he’d struggle as the most defensive midfielder against a Fat Sam team, but he did great. Controlled the game with his passing, kept it simple, and did the defensive work needed. Over the last two seasons we’ve now seen him play in all of the three midfield roles, as well as on the left and right wings, with varying degrees of comfort. Last year he played a lot where Cazorla is, and while he wasn’t abject, he struggled to really penetrate. Yesterday, he was great. A one-off? Who knows. I’d love it if he makes that position his own. Long-term successor to Arteta? Too early to say, and we still need another midfielder!

    1. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Hats off to Ramsey. Good game.

      I’m not sure I’m convinced he can do a job in that position over a long stretch. His recovery rate and speed is slow (apart from the goal mouth clearance) but I like his new found ‘aggression’ (if you can call it that) and in particular his positioning was better.

      What helped overall was our positive and concerted pressing as a team.

      Ramsey to me should play further up or as a support midfielder in the middle.

      Still think we should be getting someone fairly robust for those tougher occasions.

      But great improvement from Ramsey.

      1. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

        Yeah we know we can turn it on with about almost any team on the day. It’s just our form is so patchy. That’s where we need to see improvement.

        But good win. Love the Santi goal.

      2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Wang

        Before we blow our collective load over Ramsey’s performance, can we look objectively at what it was he did well and why? Critically, I think you’ll see his performance had a lot to do with the deeper role and there’s a case for keeping him there as his flaws are exposed when further forward in the role you’re suggesting when he’s asked to be more creative.

        Credit to Rambone for having an excellent 95% passing rate. Before other teams “figured out” Arteta, Miki had similarly high passing percentages and passes completed numbers early in the season. Simple short passes, naturally high percentage, and many square or marginally forward are what Ramsey did well. (3/5 on long balls including a backpass to Woj, and 114 of 118 short, according to StatsZone). He wasn’t asked to shoot (where he’s proven to fire wildly) and the two through balls he attempted into the box were both unsuccessful. Though Poldi deservedly got credit for 3 assists, it was Jack who was responsible for the key through balls (Assist on Poldi goal, through to Poldi on the Cazorla goal, through to Poldi on the Walcott goal, Wilshere thru to Poldi on Giroud #2 – see a trend?). Essentially, Aaron wasn’t asked to do a lot in attack – just to stick with the basics, which he did well.

        On the other side of the ball, credit Ramsey for winning 3 of 3 tackles and his only aerial duel attempted. He also showed great effort to track back and clear one off the line from Cole. Then again, he got worked (dribbled past) by Diame twice in the course of 10 seconds before Diame raked his studs across the BFG. Still, I think it’s hard to rate him defensively, as West Ham didn’t offer much of a threat in this match.

        Yes, he deserves credit for a good performance, but bear in mind he had the simplest job to do. Trying to suggest he should have an expanded (attacking) role, may only put him in a position that he’s really not cut out for. He was 0 for 2 on key through balls, and has never had the most accurate shot.

        The Wilshere-Poldi connection was the real key to Arsenal’s success, with it only being absent on the Giroud goal from the corner kick. Let’s leave the creative attacking play to Jack and Santi.

        Finally, @vladiziv – good spot on the pick play by Mertesacker!

  8. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

    Excellent work by Poldy. First player to hit 3 assists ina single game this season.

    I believe this is something like our 7th time this season we’ve scored more than 5 and I heard of all the PL sides, there have been 11 games with 5 or more goals of which we are responsible for half. Not sure if this is true, will leave it to the statisticians.

    But clearly Poldy and GIroud are not as cack as made out to be. Between them they are shouldering close to the haul that RVP would come in with.

    However we really need additional firepower over and above this and for this reason, the lack of another striker added in last summer may still be a bit of a mistake carried in to first half of the season.

    Latest, hear some talk about Jovetic for a possible 20m

    not the quickest but a tricky player with good technical ability. An Arsene Wenger signing? At 23, he might make sense and off of Fiorentina, should not be cup tied.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

      Technically Mata has done that against Stoke…but one of them was not a field goal..

      We scored 5 goals (or +) five times in the league this season…a feat not achieved by us in the last 10 years at least….
      We did it four times when we won the league…rest of the times it was just twice or thrice or once a whole season…

      which means when we click…there is very little other teams can do…

      Also all 5 times, Walcott and Podolski have scored…Cazorla have assisted or scored in all 5..
      But if one has watched those matches its evident that its been mostly because Podolski and Gibbs were a menace on the left hand side against those teams..

      Also got to do with the fact that none these teams had a right back or a midfielder attacking down the wing most of the time…which freed Podolski from his defensive duties to collect ball or make runs as and when he wanted..

      Oddly we have failed to score 6 times in the league that should be also be at a 6 season high at this point of the season…..All those games Poldi was relatively quiet..

  9. Vote -1 Vote +1ignatzuk

    I didn’t see that Collison tackle. What a bastard. And there I was feeling sorry for him after his dad died and everything. Well, OK, I can still feel sorry for him for that.

    Someone above made a good point about WH not having a fullback capable of pinning Poldi back. Also, while I’m delighted Ramsey had a good game, I’d like to see him play at the back there against a more threatening team before I jump to any conclusions. So while I’m chuffed to bits, it’s easy to see that against a better side we would not have had so much fun.

    Mostly I’m encouraged that even though we had a bit of musical chairs, with Poldi and Ramsey coming in for Diaby and Coquelin, Jack dropping back and Cazorla moving back into the middle, we still kept the balance that we’d found the last couple of games. If anything, we improved on it. Bodes well.

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