Arsenal’s record on Sundays following a Thursday night Europa League excursion isn’t exactly the most enviable of all records, though this didn’t stop Arsenal celebrating a win in the recent North London Derby.
But while their shock home loss to Olympiacos will have certainly knocked the wind from their sails, Arsenal can be happy with their lot so far. Quarter-finals of the Europa League and a decent bit of league form brewing, Arsenal headed into yet another London derby with optimism.
A few changes in the lineup saw Calum Chambers start, Pablo Marí brought back in and both Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette restored to the team.
However, whatever optimism Arsenal entered Sunday’s match quickly dissipated. West Ham were comfortably on the front foot for most of the first-half. Arsenal were sloppy in possession and looked tired and lethargic, so it came as no surprise to see West Ham take the lead in the fifteenth minute.
Michail Antonio’s quick work down the left-hand side saw him able to play the ball into Jesse Lingard, who controlled the ball and fired an absolute rocket past Bernd Leno.
But the worst was yet to come from Arsenal. Barely even a minute later, Arsenal were caught napping on a free-kick, which allowed Lingard to take the set-piece quickly, releasing Jarrod Bowen, who walked into the Arsenal penalty area totally unmarked and fire in from close-range. Questions will undoubtedly be asked of Bernd Leno and how he allowed the shot to creep in at the near-post, but there are further questions for Arsenal’s defence.
But the humiliation was not yet complete, soon West Ham saw themselves 3-0 up when Michail Antonio’s header deflected off teammate Tomáš Souček to utterly crush Arsenal hopes.
Some dignity was soon restored, however. Quick work from the in-form Martin Ødegaard allowed the Norwegian playmaker to feed Calum Chambers, whose cross found Alexandre Lacazette, who turned and fired a ferocious effort past former-Gunner Łukasz Fabiański, although replays did show a fairly wicked deflection off Tomáš Souček.
Arsenal could have had a second just before half-time when Lacazette’s ball through the middle was latched onto by Bukayo Saka, but the talented youngster barely tested Fabiański.
It was inarguably one of the worst halves of football that Arsenal have ever produced under Mikel Arteta. Arsenal looked absolutely destroyed before West Ham scored and didn’t look too pleased when half-time rolled around.
However, the change in the second-half was staggering. Arsenal looked like a team with a new lease on life as they began to attack with real gusto.
Martin Ødegaard, so often at the heart of everything was virtually unplayable for West Ham, as was Lacazette, who was unfortunate enough to have his looped effort kept off the goal line.
It didn’t take long for Arsenal to have a second though. Calum Chambers’ whipped ball into the box caused West Ham all sorts of problems and was fired home by the unfortunate Craig Dawson. The ball across was too good and better players than Dawson would have struggled to do any more.
West Ham came close to finishing the game off completely however when Michail Antonio somehow managed to miss from a yard out from Saïd Benrahma’s cross.
However, the introduction of Nicolas Pépé really seemed to turn the game around for Arsenal. The Ivorian linked up well with Chambers and Ødegaard and soon the £72m man had whipped in a cross with his weaker right foot to the back-post for Lacazette who made no mistake and completed an extraordinary comeback for Arsenal.
Arsenal will be disappointed that they did not grab a fourth, but for all intents and purposes, Arsenal were lucky to get anything at all from the game.
It was pretty much Arsenal in a nutshell. Poor defending and a lack of concentration at the back one half and then scintillating attacking football of the highest order in the second, it simply wasn’t good enough.
The performance of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was a very real concern for Arsenal fans. Though Arteta’s tactic of switching him to the right hardly helped matters, Aubameyang’s presence was barely even noticeable and the captain looked like someone who had been off the boil for a while now and his substitution for Gabriel Martinelli was surprising only in that it hadn’t happened sooner.
Elsewhere, there were only two or three players who could really hold their heads high. Alexandre Lacazette turned in one of his best Arsenal performances and showed exactly why the Frenchman is so important to this Arsenal side and just what he can potentially bring to the team. He was a constant threat and his smart inter-play was exactly what made the team tick.
It was also a good performance from Calum Chambers. Though he struggled a bit defensively, the England man was brilliant in attacking areas and was unlucky to not be credited with an assist on the day. It was no wonder that Arsenal were channeling the majority of their attacks through his side.
And last, but by no means least, Martin Ødegaard. The Real Madrid man looks like someone who has been playing at Arsenal all his life. Ødegaard was simply unplayable for West Ham, who couldn’t get near him. The Norwegian’s dribbles and passes utterly bamboozled the West Ham defence and was perhaps more deserving of the Man of the Match award on Sky Sports than Jamie Carragher let on.
It was an unacceptable overall performance from Arsenal and they will need to be much better once they return from the international break and have to contend with Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool and a Europa League quarter-final against Slavia Praha.
1.) Bernd Leno
21.) Calum Chambers
23.) David Luiz
22.) Pablo Marí
3.) Kieran Tierney
18.) Thomas Partey
34.) Granit Xhaka (Smith Rowe 74’)
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c) (Martinelli 81’)
11.) Martin Ødegaard
7.) Bukayo Saka (Pépé 74’)
9.) Alexandre Lacazette
33.) Maty Ryan
16.) Rob Holding
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
17.) Cédric Soares
25.) Mohamed Elneny
8.) Dani Ceballos
32.) Emile Smith Rowe
19.) Nicolas Pépé
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
West Ham United team:
1.) Łukasz Fabiański
5.) Vladimír Coufal
15.) Craig Dawson
23.) Issa Diop
3.) Aaron Cresswell
28.) Tomáš Souček
41.) Declan Rice
20.) Jarrod Bowen (Noble 74’)
11.) Jesse Lingard
9.) Saïd Benrahma (Fredericks 79’)
30.) Michail Antonio
West Ham United subs:
25.) David Martin
34.) Nathan Trott
14.) Frederik Alves
4.) Fabián Balbuena
24.) Ryan Fredericks
31.) Ben Johnson
16.) Mark Noble
10.) Manuel Lanzini
45.) Mipo Odubeko