Arsenal vs West Ham
Kick off: Saturday March 14, 2015 – 3.00 PM BST
Our dominant 3-0 win over West Ham could prove hugely important as we look to keep up the pressure on our top four rivals.
Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey, and Mathieu Flamini all got themselves on the scoresheet, while our defence stood up well to everything the Hammers threw at us.
There were a few predictable changes to the lineup – Theo Walcott replacing Danny Welbeck for his first start since Leicester, while David Ospina returned to the side after sitting out the FA Cup clash. Calum Chambers also replaced Bellerin in a somewhat less predictable change, while Aaron Ramsey gave Santi Cazorla a much needed rest.
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We started brightly, and Walcott in particular looked hungry. Giroud put it on a plate for the pacey forward with one of his trademark flicks, with Walcott through on goal and merely needing to apply the finish.
He hesitated far too long however, and James Collins was able to get back and put a tackle in.
It was a clumsy one from the Welsh defender, and replays showed it should have been a penalty. It was difficult for the referee however, and you could understand how he missed it.
We dominated possession as you would expect, and spent large periods camped outside their penalty box.
Alexis Sanchez came close with a headed effort off a Calum Chambers cross, but Adrian pushed it round the post to deny the Chilean.
Sam Allardyce’s side weren’t looking toothless however, and David Ospina was called into action to save a Kevin Nolan volley.
Matt Jarvis’ cross should never have been allowed to find Nolan, but some poor positioning and lazy defending from Chambers saw him waiting for an offside flag which never came.
The former Southampton man was superb going forward, but his defending left something to be desired.
He put in another superb cross for Aaron Ramsey later in the half, but the Welshman fluffed his lines. He seemed caught in two minds over whether to stoop and head it or attempt an acrobatic volley. In the end he did neither – instead seeing the ball deflect goalwards off his thigh, making for a simple Adrian save.
Walcott had another fantastic chance to open the scoring, one-on-one with Adrian after being played through by Ramsey.
Again he seemed to hesitate however, eventually shooting tamely straight at the shot-stopper for another simple save.
It looked like we were going to go into the break goalless, with Walcott missing yet another chance.
He started a fantastic move which looked destined to end in a goal, but when Mesut Özil was played in his shot was saved by Adrian. It fell to Walcott at a tight angle, but he slipped at the crucial moment and skewed his shot wide.
There was just enough time for a goal however, with Olivier Giroud getting us started.
He was at the centre of a the move that saw a beautiful triangle of passing between Özil, Ramsey, and himself. Ramsey’s run left the defenders confused, allowing our HFB to lash a shot towards the far corner and past a helpless Adrian. 1-0.
West Ham started brighter in the second half, but apart from a moment of panic after David Ospina took a blow to the head, they never really looked like scoring.
The first substitution was bizarrely done by neither side, with referee Chris Foy the one to be replaced.
We then brought Danny Welbeck on for Alexis Sanchez, who in truth had been below par all afternoon.
The Old Trafford match-winner looked to be posing a threat, but his final balls were definitely lacking.
We had a few good chances that we should have scored from, but Özil and Welbeck continually seemed to make the wrong decision.
It could have been a tense finish, as we approached the final ten minutes and West Ham were beginning to push for a goal.
Our second eventually did come however, and it was Ramsey and Giroud linking up again.
The pair looked almost telepathic with their passing, our French forward dummying the ball for Ramsey before a quick one-two created space for the shot.
Ramsey rifled it in at the near post, making it 2-0 and a far more comfortable scoreline.
Santi Cazorla and Mathieu Flamini had been brought on for more presence in midfield, but the veteran French destroyer ended up getting among the goals.
Cazorla played a pass across the box with pin point accuracy, picking out Flamini for a tap in. 3-0, and three points.
The win sees us continue to cement our place in the top four, and keep up the pressure on Manchester City in second.
Winning by the same margin on Tuesday would see us through to the next round of the Champions League, but you can’t help but feel that Monaco will put up a more of a fight than West Ham.