There was something particularly satisfying about Arsenal’s 1-0 win over West Ham.
Much like last season’s heart-pumping late win over Wolves our boys were forced to wait until the last moments for a goal by a West Ham team that defended stoutly and grew in stature as the game progressed.
But when it came, what a moment! Gael Clichy’s trickery was clever, his clipped cross sublime and the hungry, determined Alex Song throw his body at the ball to snatch the points. His adrenaline-fueled celebrations with last year’s Wolves hero, Nicklas Bendtner, said it all.
While watching the game, particularly in the first half, my feelings towards the performance were not particularly positive. I thought the general effort and energy bore some resemblance to the West Brom fiasco just a few weeks ago.
But on review of the highlights this feeling was probably misplaced: we created a number of very good chances with Song, Bacary Sagna and Cesc Fabregas combining to draw a wonderful save from Robert Green. In short, we were perhaps a little unlucky not to go into the break with a lead.
Up the other end Lukasz Fabianski, Sebastien Squillaci and the recently-returned Laurent Koscielny were rarely tested and coped well with what West Ham had to offer. At no point did I genuinely feel that West Ham would score and they didn’t, an outcome that ensured our third clean sheet in a row (!).
With the West Ham offense well-controlled the second half became a story whether or not we would score.
Andrey Arshavin dragged a show across the face of goal, Samir Nasri rattled the frame with a brilliant free-kick while Theo Walcott, on as a substitute, repeated the trick after being put clear by Fabregas. The urgency was much greater and it was telling: West Ham were camped back into their half and a goal seemed inevitable.
Bendtner joined Walcott on the pitch, the pair replacing Arshavin and Denilson respectively, and it was their influence that effectively changed the game.
Bendtner’s introduction alongside Marouane Chamakh meant a more consistent penalty-area threat as one could wander wide and the other stay central. Meanwhile Walcott’s presence panicked West Ham into blocking up the right side of our attack, leaving Clichy with acres of space to move into on the left, a luxury he took full advantage of for the goal.
Although the final score was narrow and the deciding goal came late, we fully deserved the win on Saturday. The improvement in effort and urgency after the break was encouraging and the discipline to stick to our game-plan right up until the final whistle, was admirable. These are the sorts of games that we absolutely have to win to stay in the title race and despite going close to dropping two points the boys got the job done.
As for the match winner, Mr Song, he is just on fire right now. He’s in a real purple patch in front of goal at the moment and when you read his post-match comments, it’s hard not to be delighted with his success.
“When you play in one team for a long time, with the best manager in the world, you want to give your best every day, that is why you can see it when we are on the pitch – we showed very good character against West Ham and never gave up, which is very good for the future for us.”
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