Arsenal v West Ham
Barclays Premier League
Kick off: April 15, 2014 7.45 PM BST
With just a handful of games remaining, Arsenal need to be taking all 3 points from every single match. Going into tonight’s game we were in 5th, but with the win against West Ham we have leapfrogged Everton once again into 4th.
The players were bound to be tired from Saturday’s 120 minuter, the mental drain likely to be as damaging as the physical one. We needed to grab a win in the league, to give our confidence a boost and show that we are still competing on both fronts.
We were looking a little sluggish in the early goings, many of the players looking tired and jaded. West Ham were being given too much time and space, their wingers stretching play while runners from midfield were being left untracked. Diame in particular was causing problems, a clever run and a shot stopped only by a Mertesacker block.
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Arsenal’s first decent chance of the half came from a drilled Lukas Podolski cross, Giroud narrowly missing it as it shot past him. Giroud spurned another chance on the half hour mark, Cazorla playing the Frenchman through on goal with a slick pass. Giroud attempted a clever chip which was never really on, and Adrian was able to keep it out easily. His finishing was fairly poor in the first half, but his link up and hold up play was solid.
Shortly before half time, some poor defending from Arsenal allowed West Ham to take the lead. Källström failed to track the run of Antonio Nocerino, whose initial cross was blocked by Szczesny but fell straight back to him. The second ball in, popped up nicely for Jarvis, who headed in at close range. 1-0 West Ham.
Arsenal hit straight back though, Lukas Podolski drawing the Gunners level moments later. Cazorla picked the German out with a defence splitting pass, Podolski turning and blasting a shot across goal. It was a sublime finish, picking out the far corner perfectly, and giving Adrian no chance. 1-1.
The second half was a massive improvement from Arsenal, Podolski gaining confidence from his goal, and Rosicky and Cazorla growing more influential. After not having the best first half, Olivier Giroud produced a piece of pure brilliance to give the Gunners the lead. An Arsenal corner cleared to Vermaelen, who put a good ball back into the box for the Frenchman. Despite being buffeted and manhandled by Winston Reid and Andy Carroll, he plucked the ball out of the air exquisitely, and lashed the ball through Adrian’s legs with his right foot. You’re unlikely to see first touch and control any better than that, and it was a fantastic goal all round.
Arsenal came close to their third during a fantastic counter attack, Rosicky racing forward with the ball. He had Cazorla in acres of space to his right, and duly picked him out. He pushed the Spaniard a little too wide, but he eventually cut back inside and saw a powerful shot fly a whisker past the post.
The returning Aaron Ramsey was brought on, and Arsenal instantly looked a better side. His runs with and without the ball were fantastic, and he was creating space for his team mates well. He grabbed the assist for Arsenal’s third goal, a well worked move to give Podolski his brace. Cazorla spread the play to Giroud on the left, who looked up and picked out Aaron Ramsey with a nice cross. The Welshman cushioned a header into the path of Podolski, who rifled a shot into the roof of the net. 3-1 Arsenal, away and in the clear.
A stuttery performance from Arsenal, but a brilliant second half. A much needed confidence and momentum boost for Arsene’s boys in the race to 4th place.
on a big victory…
Yes, we were tested mentally, but I think we were strong. We were united, disciplined, determined, and despite being 1-0 down – I couldn’t see where we could be 1-0 down – it was a big blow but we responded well. Overall you could feel that the team was absolutely focused from the first to the last minute. We built slowly a win that I think was normal.
on his strikers…
When the team went through a bad patch with a lack of confidence, because some results went against us, the first to suffer are the strikers in a period like that, so you have to slowly rebuild that with results and with resilience.
on his team selection…
It was a gamble but I said before the game as well that it was the oldest team certainly that I’ve ever played at Arsenal. I trusted the experience of the players because… tonight it was an unusual around-30 team, and that experience of course helps when you are a little bit backs against the wall.
on Giroud’s technique for his goal…
It was a perfect first touch. You need that if you want to score the goal. What I like is that he used his upper body first to make some space, and despite that he managed to have a great first touch, and after that he finished well.
on Giroud’s tribute to Hillsborough…
Yes, Olivier is a great guy with a great mentality. He has gone through a difficult period, as you know, and I think it affected his game for a while and his confidence. I hope that what happened tonight… you could see that he was refreshed tonight and that he was up for it. At half-time he came in, he was very very down because he missed a great chance in the first half, but he responded very well in the second half because he’s mentally a strong guy.
on playing two up front…
I am tempted but I have so many offensive players, who all want to go in the middle, and Lukas is the only one who is really a wide player. Rosicky is a central player, Cazorla is basically a central player, and when you don’t have Walcott it’s very difficult to do that.
on whether Podolski wants to play centrally…
I played him centre forward a few times and I felt he came a lot to the ball, more like an off-striker than a target striker. But he is a fantastic finisher because he has unbelievable power and a very short backlift. So the one you want to have a chance is him.
on keeping Podolski on for 90 minutes…
I didn’t, no. First of all you do not always substitute players linked with the performance, sometimes yes, on Saturday yes, but sometimes not, sometimes you want to change tactically, sometimes you want a better defensive balance when you’re 3-1 up. It depends, it is always a different reason.
on the impact of this win…
It improves the confidence of the team. Saturday and tonight improves the confidence of the team, but we know we have one advantage – the picture is very clear in front of us. We have compulsory wins in front of us. We want to do it of course.
on whether four wins will be enough…
It doesn’t depend solely on us but it’s a good chance that if we win all our games it’s possible, yes.
on the Jarvis penalty incident…
I am grateful [that Jarvis stayed on his feet]. Yes, I don’t think it was a penalty, but he touched him, yes. Can you be too honest? I leave you that judgment, I think you want people to be honest. It didn’t look to me a penalty but maybe if he had made a theatrical dive he would have got it. I don’t know.
on coping with the expectations…
In the Premier League, if you can find me some easy games I am taking them, but I haven’t seen some this season. We know we have to win our games and hope that Everton will slip up somewhere. Let’s focus on our job and not look too much at Everton. If we need that we’ll see when we need it, but at the moment we can only do it if we win our games, so let’s focus on that.
on Abou Diaby…
Abou is back in full training on Thursday. It’s very difficult to say [if he will play this season] because he has not played for over a year now, and it’s very difficult for me [to decide]. He looks physically fine, but he has to play one or two games before I consider bringing him back.
on Mesut Ozil…
Ozil should be available for the weekend.
Here are some of the top tweets from today’s game:
“This game has got a Giroud super strike written all over it.”
“Can Podolski please teach everyone else in the squad how to do that.”
“I take it all back you handsome f*cking b*stard”
First Half – ‘Giroud is awful, he’s been useless!’
54th Minute – ‘Giroud is class, what a player!’ ”
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Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Vermaelen(c)
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