Monday, December 29

Kicked up the Arsenal…

Nigel's red nose day — or is it the ref?
West Ham 1 Arsenal 2

We’re in Hertfordshire post-Christmas, so it’s a train from Bishop’s Stortford to Liverpool Street, then a visit to the Newham Bookshop having been summoned on twitter by Vivian to meet Stef from the Bishopsgate Institute. Then it's on to Ken’s Café. where Nigel has found a flashing red nose in his stocking, Michael the Whovian is still trying to remove a brain crab from his temple and Matt says we’ve never lost a game when Alex Song was captain, only to be out-anoraked by Fraser, who points out that Song captained the Irons for the defeat at Old Trafford. Matt’s Christmas has been ruined. Meanwhile Fraser is a happy man having received a West Ham dressing gown from Santa.

Jenkinson isn’t allowed to play because he’s on loan from the Gunners so Joey O’Brien deputises. Suddenly you realise just how much we miss Carl’s crosses, as O’Brien, sound enough defensively, slices the ball into the Trevor Brooking Stand and later sub Demel balloons one into the Bobby Moore.

West Ham start off well, with Downing forcing a corner after five minutes. The ball is headed clear and Alex Song fires home a fine volley from the edge of the box. We’re all celebrating before realising that ref Neil Swarbrick has disallowed it on the grounds that Sakho was in the line of vision of the goalkeeper, even though he never touched the ball. Refs are supposed to give the attacker the benefit of the doubt these days and even Arsene Wenger later admits that it should have been allowed. Even worse it ruins Song's spectacular non-celebration of his goal. Though personally I'd have preferred him to run to the away end and flick some V-signs, though I might be biased.

Hammers continue to attack with Amalfitano prominent and Tomkins volleys a good chance over the bar when he could have controlled it and shot. But then Arsenal break, Cazorla makes a run into the box, Reid kicks the ball into Cazorla’s legs and falls over and Cazorla tumbles over the prone defender. Swarbrick points to the spot and Winston is clearly incensed — it looks a completely accidental coming together to me. Cazorla duly converts the penalty and the crowd chant “One-nil to the referee!”

Just as Matt is saying we need to consolidate and not panic before the break, Oxlade Chamberlain weaves into the area and crosses through Reid’s legs. Tomkins has lost Welbeck and the son of Stan Welbeck of the Bomb Disposal Squad (that joke is copyright Nigel) converts. Two goals in three minutes just before half-time.

It looks bleak at the break, but our morale is raised by Nigel dispensing CQ’s lucky aniseed balls. It seems to work as West Ham exert plenty of pressure after the break. Sakho gets in a cross from the right and Mertesacker makes a great header to deny Carroll. From the cleared corner Amalfitano finds Tomkins who does really well to ride a tackle and chip in a cross that Kouyate (inspired by a rollicking from Michael) converts via the shoulder of Debuchy.

It’s turning into a good game for the cameras, as Arsenal still look immensely dangerous on the break. Sanchez finds Cazorla and Adrian makes a good one-handed stop. Kouyate then gets in a great cross from the left and Sakho just fails to connect as the volume rises from the home fans.

Arsenal look much stronger with Koscielny back alongside the big effing German Mertesacker.  Szczesny dominates his box, repeatedly catching crosses aimed at Carroll. Welbeck runs from the halfway line, outpacing Tomkins and producing another fine stop from Adrian. The West Ham keeper then produces a brilliant stop with his feet to deny Oxlade Chamberlain’s header and another decent save to deny Sanchez.

Valencia comes on for a worrying cameo, where he repeatedly tries to take on too many men rather than play it simple, causing the Vicar’s Son to wonder if he’s effing Modibo Maiga in disguise. Amalfitano appears to be brought down in the Arsenal area and Michael the Whovian gets angrier than Davros after a failed  reality bomb plot. Carroll heads back to sub Kevin Nolan who gets in a meaty shot that is held by Szczesny. Adrian, all in white, advances for a corner and from the resulting break Andy Carroll has to mop up at the back. The Hammers’ custodian advances again for a free kick. Arsenal clear, it’s headed back into the box and Valencia mistimes his jump to head on to the roof of the net rather than in. Game over.

We retreat to the Central and try to look at the positives, in addition to Mike getting some cheap West Ham dog bowls, a Hammers rug and a puffer jacket from the club shop. We’ve worried Arsenal so much in the second half that Wenger has brought on two full backs in Chambers and Gibbs to boost his defence. Adrian has had a great game and Andy Carroll looks hungry, though Song and Sakho didn’t look entirely fit and our defence was at fault for the second goal. A reality check today, but at the halfway stage we still have 31 points and lie in sixth place. That’s progress. Though now we have to beat West Brom to ensure we don’t come down with the Christmas decorations.

TEAM RATINGS: Adrian 8; O’Brien 5 (Demel 5), Tomkins 6, Reid 6, Cresswell 6; Kouyate 7 (Nolan 6), Song 6, Amalfitano 7, Downing 6; Sakho 6 (Valencia 4), Carroll 7. 


matt said...

With Enner, we have to remember that 14 months ago he was playing semi-pro in Ecuador just 14 months ago, so he is bound to be a little raw. We must stick with him, as he has a big part to play in the next couple of months.

No excuses for Swarbrick though, he had an absolute Howard Webb of a game.

Pete May said...

I didn't realise Enner's risen so quickly… hopefully he'll come god again.