After the confidence boosting win against Manchester United in the FA Cup which saw us progress to the semi finals of the tournament, our next opponents were city rivals West Ham United in a Premier League clash. With the Champions League return leg against Monaco also looming closer, manager Arsene Wenger had to pull off a fine balancing act; picking a strong enough team to win today while also resting key players for the game against the French side. And today, the veteran manager did his job to perfection as Arsenal cruised to a 3-0 home win and are now in fine form for the games ahead.
In a game that remained goalless until the end of the first half, Giroud’s classy strike opened things up and allowed Arsenal to take control of the game, which we did during the later stages of the second half. The Gunners easily controlled the threat of West Ham and created a host of chances, a couple of which were converted courtesy of Ramsey and Flamini. It was the perfect result for the side, one which saw key players like Giroud, Koscielny and Ozil turn in fine performances while Cazorla also made a telling contribution after coming on from the bench.
The manager praised the performances of the team, but he made sure to keep a cool head and divert the focus on the upcoming game against Monaco, which will decide our fate in Europe. This is what he had to say:
It’s a good performance. We controlled the game in the first half, created many chances but couldn’t score. In the second half I felt we were a bit short of energy coming out of the dressing room for a while and West Ham were on top for that period. After, in the final part of the game, we always looked dangerous and capable of scoring goals. We had to patient, organised and steady. Overall we scored great collective goals like we love to play.
It was a fantastic goal [by Giroud] because it’s a consequence of a fantastic combination just before and after. On top of that the finishing was great. It’s the kind of goal we love to score. I don’t like to put much pressure on him. Giroud had an outstanding game today. At Manchester United he didn’t play and we won. What is important is that the team plays well. I know that all these offensive players have the quality to deliver something special but for us it’s important that the team plays well. After, at the end of our movements, what is for sure is that they understand each other much better than six or seven months ago. That makes everybody more dangerous. Welbeck came this season, Walcott has been out for a year, Ozil has now adapted. When you look at the game, he is prepared well so that makes a difference.
We’ve won eight of the last nine and we are stronger today than we were at the start of the season. We dropped off in this league because we won one of six at the start of the season. Today we are a different team. We suffered a lot from the post-World Cup fixtures. Players came back and they weren’t ready to play.
The manager also spoke regarding team selection and the Monaco game:
We now go to Monaco. We’ve come out of a good week because we’ve played at Manchester United, we’ve played the London derby today and we need the belief to prepare well. Let’s do that and after we’ll see.
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I haven’t decided yet [whether to start Santi Cazorla and Danny Welbeck]. You have to take that a little bit with perspective because the game [against West Ham] was more open, they were fresh when they came on and they have the quality of course. I rested Cazorla today because he’s basically played every single game since the start of the season.
If you have no belief, you have no chance [to qualify for the quarter finals in the Champions League]. We have to believe that we can do it and give everything. This time Monaco are favourites so we have to go there, give absolutely everything and come out of the game with that feeling.
With so many players fit and in form, Arsenal and Wenger must be somewhat confident ahead of the away leg at Monaco, or at least as confident as one can be after having lost 3-1 at home. If Arsenal play like they have over the past week, there is no reason why we cannot overturn the deficit and win; although as Monaco showed at the Emirates, it is never wise to underestimate them. Regardless, that match is still a few days away, what we can take home today is a job well done by the Arsenal side and another three points in the bag.