Arsenal came from a goal down yesterday to earn a hard-fought 3-1 win over West Ham at Upton Park. A goal just before half-time from Olivier Giroud cancelled out Mohamed Diame’s solo effort and goals from substitute Theo Walcott and the superb Santi Cazorla sealed the win. Below are some of my thoughts on the game:
1) West Ham made Arsenal work very hard for the victory, but we got there in the end. The Hammers have started the season well and gave us a bit of a scare when Mohammed Diame confused/wrong-footed Aaron Ramsey and curled the ball in from the left side of the box. Per Mertesacker could maybe have closed him down a bit more quickly, and Arsenal had failed to score with 4 or 5 efforts on goal at the other end beforehand, but credit where credit is due. Diame’s first goal for West Ham was pretty special.
“We weakened a bit physically in the second half but overall it was a very important test for us today. We expected a difficult game. We were not disappointed – a game with a lot of pace, where both teams went for it in different styles. It was a good test mentally as well, because we went 1-0 down with their first shot on goal. We came back and won this game. You could say that we had a good performance today overall.”
2) Mohammed Diame was very lucky not to have been sent off. Both Diame and later Theo Walcott were given yellow cards for running into the crowd to celebrate their goals, which I find slightly ridiculous. This is definitely something that the FA should reassess. However, the fact remains that Diame was already on a yellow when he made a bad challenge on Mikel Arteta only a few minutes after he had opened the scoring. I simply can’t see how referee Phil Dowd can justify not giving him a second yellow card for that challenge.
3) Olivier Giroud’s goal shows how important he can be for Arsenal this season. The Frenchman finally announced his arrival in the Premier League in style, with the kind of goal-poachers effort that we very rarely get to see at Arsenal. The replay on ESPN showed just how far he had run to make sure that he got on the end of Lukas Podolski’s cross. Giroud’s movement is fantastic, his hold-up play and arial ability are unlike anything we have seen at Arsenal for a few seasons, and I am sure that this goal will give him the all of the confidence that he needs to pursue a long and prosperous career in North London.
“In similar situations he nearly scored like that against Olympiacos on Wednesday night. He was good today. He had the physical presence and scored the goal. That will help him a lot I think to adapt very quickly.”
4) Arsenal couldn’t deal with the arial threat of Andy Carroll. Carroll was fierce in the air and was at the focal point of many of West Ham’s attacks, even with Per Mertesacker in the team. We can be very glad that Mannone made some good saves and that Kevin Nolan squandered an opportunity from a flicked-on header.
“You never can completely control Carroll for 90 minutes. You have to fight for him and be good on the second ball. The problem with West Ham is not only Carroll, but is [also] Nolan on the second ball in the box. We could have been punished once or twice but overall we gave it all to deal well with him. He [Carroll] was really up for it I must say. He did fight from the first to the last minute.”
5) Mikel Arteta is the best passer in Europe. According to the ESPN, Mikel Arteta has made the most passes this season out of any player in any top division in Europe. I am not sure exactly where they get this stat from (it must take hours to analyse every player in Europe!), but ESPN stats are normally quite reliable and this is a stat that I have no problem believing. His passing yesterday was, as usual, superb, and he really dictates the play from that deeper midfield role. He also gives players like Santi Cazorla (who I will talk about later) a bit more creative freedom than they might have in other teams. The fact that Mikel hasn’t made a single appearance for the Spanish national team is a travesty and is a testament to the likes of Xavi and Iniesta. I honestly think that if Arteta was playing in Spain he would have been given a chance in the national team. The fact that he is in the Premier League (and previously the SPL) means that he doesn’t get as much of a look-in.