It happened. We managed to reach our first victory in the Premiership in 2013 and it was impressive one. It certainly had a feeling of deja vu – we managed to crush our opponents in a short period during second half with Giroud scoring a brace, similar to Newcastle in December where we managed to turn things around after being goal down and held to 1:1 at the interval – the same thing happened in October against West Ham. Ten minutes of second half were enough for us to score four goals in order to reduce the gap on both the Spuds and Everton in battle for a Champions League spot.
Arsene Wenger made a few changes after defeat at Chelsea. Lukas Podolski returned after illness to his left-wing position while Abou Diaby was dropped from starting 11 in favour of Aaron Ramsey. Francis Coquelin wasn’t selected due to injury.
The first chance of the match came after Wilshere and Walcott combined, but Winston Reid managed to close the shooting angle for the English forward who put his shot wide. The Hammers didn’t just sit back – Taylor’s shot took a deflection from Vermaelen’s foot but it went over the bar. Our opponents showed how dangerous they are in set-pieces in the 18th minute. Giroud tried to head the ball out of penalty box but it fell straight to Collison who took a shot outside the box. Giroud and Mertesacker couldn’t block it and Sczszesny couldn’t save it neither – Collison’s shot ended in the goal.
It didn’t look promising given that we had lost the two previous games and third defeat in a row, especially at home and especially against the side that should be in the worse half of the table, would be a disaster. Luckily, we responded quickly enough. Wilshere clipped the ball over defender’s foot to Podolski who unleashed powerful left-footed shot in the bottom corner of Jaaskelainen’s net. We were dominating from that moment with Gibbs running into the box after a wonderful set-up from Wilshere and Giroud but our left full back decided to pass it to Podolski instead of finishing it himself. Unfortunately, the ball fell to Podolski’s weaker foot and his shot was easily cleared off the line. We had to do some clearances as well – after Carlton Cole sent the ball past Sczszesny, we were near another conceded goal. Luckily, Ramsey and Vermaelen made the clearance with the latter being injured by Ramsey in process. Cazorla had another chance for Arsenal from a free-kick from the right side of our attack. The ambidextrous Spaniard took a shot with his left foot but Jaaskelainen managed to save it. The ball fell to Giroud who couldn’t shoot properly.
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The second half started in a promising fashion. Walcott’s run nearly ended with an own goal by Tomkins after he fired a low cross into the six yard box. Moments later Gibbs had a chance to make a dangerous cross himself but was denied for a corner. Walcott took the corner from the left side of our attack, Mertesacker made a great block for Giroud and the Frenchman volleyed the ball passed Jaaskelainen. A couple of minutes later, our three newbies made a wonderful attacking move. Giroud and Podolski combined just before Santi Cazorla scored an intelligent flick to make it 3:1.
We solved all possible problems in the next attack – Wilshere released Podolski on the left side and the German concluded his run with perfect cross for Walcott’s finish. The final goal of the match was scored in 57th minute – Podolski made another brilliant low cross for Giroud who scored his third brace in Premiership this season (Fulham, Newcastle, West Ham). After that goal, the pace of the game declined heavily. Vermaelen was substituted for Koscielny due to injury picked up during clearance in the first half, while Andre Santos replaced man-of-the-match Podolski. Oxlade-Chamberlain got a bit of the game as well as he went on to replace Giroud. Unfortunately, the rest of the game was marred by an ugly injury to Daniel Potts. The West Ham youngster got injured after just 10 minutes on the field and had to be stretchered off. He suffered a concussion that will make him spent the night in hospital. Hopefully that brave lad, son of Steve Potts, will get well soon. He had already beaten leukaemia and that proves he possesses some spirit. From then we played with our foot off the gas with Walcott having the best chance in a 3 on 1 counter-attack.
This was a good victory. Sure, we could sometimes finish first interval with at least one goal up but the most important thing is that we ended streak of consecutive defeats and games without victory in Premiership. Fixture congestion hasn’t been helpful either given that our next match in FA Cup against Brighton will be followed by Premiership fixture against Liverpool. Both matches will be very important for us and we should take Brighton very seriously given that we have already tasted defeat from lower level clubs in the League Cup. If Vermaelen’s injury is serious, we will need a center-back as well as defensive midfielder and attacker.
on getting the performance he wanted…
Yes, we got a good response. I felt that having watched the game again against Chelsea that our second half was very interesting. In the continuity we played alright tonight. In the first half we controlled the game but West Ham were dangerous on the counter-attack and from set-pieces. We got punished.
In the second half from the start on we created chance after chance and played at a very high pace. From there on it was great movement, great quality in our final balls and in our combination play. Until Potts got injured of course, after that it was a bit the end of the game because we played 11 against 10 and it was 5-1. The end was a bit less entertaining.
on the players taking responsibility…
I never felt that the players didn’t know how important it is. I was more worried that they are a bit sometimes inhibited in the recent big games from the start on. But this team has a fantastic mentality and good quality, that’s what we want to show until the end of the season now.
on Lukas Podolski…
He had an outstanding game tonight. He scored a very important goal. He has an unbelievable shot because the keeper had no chance. After he gave of course two great balls as well. What is new for us is that we scored on a corner! It was a bit unusual.
on going 1-0 down…
Yes, at 1-0 down, if you concede the second goal [it can go the other way]. But it was a bit a repetition of the game at West Ham. We were 1-0 down as well and won 3-1. But the Premier League is like that. Everybody can score against everybody and everybody is in trouble as soon as you are not at your best.
on whether he was concerned in the first half…
Yes, I thought it was an interesting test at that moment. But we kept going and we always looked like… I could not predict that we would score five goals, but what was vital for us was to equalise before half-time and then see if West Ham could maintain their control of us. They marked us man to man in the middle of the park so I hoped they would have trouble to do that until the end.
on whether it was Podolski’s best game…
He had a very strong game at West Ham as well. Certainly today it was his most efficient game because I felt he took responsibility at the moment when we needed him. With a player of his experience you expect him to do that. I have plenty of candidates [to play through the centre] but I believe still this is his best position [on the left].
on Thomas Vermaelen…
Vermaelen has an ankle problem. He got kicked and twisted a little bit. He is a doubt for Saturday but it is nothing major.
on potential signings…
No [I have nothing to tell you]. That is why I have to shorten the press conference – I have to do some work!
Sagna Mertesacker Vermaelen (c) Gibbs
Wojciech Szczesny | 6.0: He was hardly tested during the match. His reaction was a bit slower when Collison scored, maybe because of Giroud and Mertesacker who impaired his vision and tried to block the shot.
Bacary Sagna | 7.0: He had put a decent performance. Though, he had one poor clearance in the first half that gave a chance to Carlton Cole to score but also made a wonderful tackle to prevent West Ham from hitting us on the counter-attack. His crossing is still off the mark.
Per Mertesacker | 7.5: Had some trouble to deal with Carlton Cole but managed to contribute on the other side of the pitch as well – he helped Giroud score a very important goal.
Thomas Vermaelen | 7.5: Made a great clearance of Cole’s shot but got injured on process as well. He might spend some time on sideline, unfortunately.
Kieran Gibbs | 8.0: Made a couple of defensive errors but was a menace in attack. Too bad he didn’t decide to shoot instead of pass to Podolski in the first half.
Aaron Ramsey | 7.0: Made our attacks slower on couple of occasions and injured Vermaelen. Wenger should use his great talent for off-the-ball movement when we attack.
Jack Wilshere | 8.0: Another excellent performance. He has been fouled a million times this season and it is really some sort of irony that the only player that got sent off was the one that didn’t foul him. He survived a terrible challenge in the opening minutes and finally wore the captains armband after Vermaelen was substituted. Made two decisive passes to Podolski before the goals.
Santi Cazorla | 8.0: He was constant threat to opponents from free-kicks as well as from open play. Scored a brilliant back-heel goal.
Theo Walcott | 8.0: Some might argue whether Walcott deserves the paycheck guaranteed with his new contract, but his statistics seem to indicate so Theo. He scored another goal and grabbed himself an assist as well. He did waste one counter-attack and a couple of chances that he should finish better.
Lukas Podolski | 9.0: Great performance from the German who exemplifies this Arsenal – one night he is fantastic, the other night he is having a shocker. Tonight was the former – he scored a wonderful equalizer at the right time, made three assists and put in a hell of a shift. Too bad he didn’t score a goal after he took the ball on his own half and brought it to West Ham penalty box.
Olivier Giroud | 8.0: He has reached double digits in terms of goals in Arsenal shirt as he has scored 11 goals so far and created a decent opportunity for Gibbs in the first half. It’s interesting to mention that he scored in both matches against West Ham just like Walcott and Cazorla did. We need his goal-scoring inspiration.
Laurent Koscielny | 6.0: Didn’t have too much job to do. He will probably play against Brighton given that Vermaelen is injured.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain | 6.5: Made a few good runs but wasn’t efficient at all.
Andre Santos | 5.5: Unleashed one weak shot.
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