Thursday, April 6

Kicked up the Arsenal

Pre-match with David, Lisa, Matt and Nigel
Arsenal 3 West Ham 0

It’s round to May Towers for pre-match festivities. David the Gooner has arrived with tickets, Matthew the Gooner has come with cans of John Smith, Hammers Matt and Lisa arrive with a bag of Doom Bar, while Nigel the Kew Gardens Iron brings his own lager. We’re up against an Arsenal side without Koscielny and with a third-choice goalkeeper. What could possibly go wrong?

We arrive at their soulless corporate dome. Is this the Emirates? It’s a good view from my padded seat above the half-way line, while Nigel’s at the end and Matt and Lisa in the corner. West Ham have an early sight of goal when Antonio wins a free kick on the edge of the box. Lanzini’s effort dips over the bar and Arsenal’s rookie keeper Martinez remains untested.

Welbeck fails to connect with Sanchez’s clever through ball in front of goal but generally the Hammers defend well in the first half, without showing much going forward. Kouyate looks effective in front of the back four and Masuaku copes fairly well with Walcott. Late on Fonte and Collins get in a couple of great blocks to deny goal bound shots late on before Randolph has to pluck a Welbeck header from under the bar. The West Ham fans break into a chorus of “My name is Ludek Miklosko!” The Gooners around me remain unhappy with ref Martin Atkinson, though for me he’s having a pretty good game.  What’s been poor is that we haven’t got any balls in to Carroll to test their defence.

Snodgrass replaces Antonio (rushed back too soon?) but the second half appears to be going to plan as Collins make a great block tackle to deny Ozil. But it all goes wrong as the West Ham defence correctly claims handball against Walcott. The ref ignores the claims, Fonte fluffs his clearance and Ozil strokes in a cross come shot. Distracted by Sanchez, Randolph gets a hand to it but can’t stop a saveable shot. The Emirates erupts with relief.

Randolph redeems himself a little with a fine save from Welbeck, but Ozil then comes to life, playing a one-two with a Sanchez back-heel and pulling a great ball back for Walcott to get ahead of Byram and prod into the corner. Game over, man. "Red Army!" chant the one fans, so happy they forget to fight over Wenger's future.

Bellerin goes close after a great ball from Sanchez while Lanzini finally forces Martinez to make a good save. Arsenal’s strength is shown by bringing on Giroud, Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain. Giroud scores with a great curling shot, as he always does against us. There’s time for Sakho to get a run-out, Fernandes to test Martinez again and Byram to concede a penalty that the ref doesn’t give.

Post-match inquest
We trek back to my gaff, dispirited but slightly relieved it hasn’t been an absolute tonking. A small consolation is that of our remaining eight fixture this was the most difficult.

Pete’s Bar is busy until 11.30pm, as Nigel tries to name his first-choice West Ham X1 and discovers there’s only six players in it, and one of those is Trevor Brooking. Gavin gets agitated about the geographical inexactitude of the Ludo Miklosko song and our group resort to groundhopping anecdotes about the Lewes Dripping Pan, Dulwich Hamlet and Virtus Entella (ask Matt, it’s the Burton Albion of Serie B).

Thank goodness Swansea and Palace lost, though we’re just three points ahead of Hull. Swansea now becomes an absolutely must-win game.

PLAYER RATINGS: Randolph 5; Byram 5, Collins 7, Fonte 6, Masuaku 6; Ayew 4, Kouyate 6, Noble 5 (Fernandes 5), Lanzini 6, Antonio 5 (Snodgrass 4); Carroll 5 (Sakho 5).


Rob Graham said...

Hi Pete, well done for making it to the Emirates Stadium, similar atmospheric feel to London Stadium? Its great to team up with friends and make an evening of it.
To be honest I thought we did quite well, ignoring the 3 goals conceded!
The overall shape looked better, a few looked overwhelmed at times but tbh the Gunners were had better quality than us in nearly every position.
Swansea is now a "must win game" and I think if we don't then we need to accept a few harsh realities.
Its not pleasant to experience but as Hammers supporters we should be well used to it by now, my simplistic analysis is after the Andy threat is dealt with, we have little or no plan B that works.
Lanzini is doing his best and coming closer and closer, very confused with Snodgrass.
Anyway, enjoy the roller coaster towards the last game, I have already ordered in more blood pressure tablets to get me through.

Pete May said...

Yes, they have quite big gaps behind the goal and at the sides though not quite the curved athletics track shape we have. We did at least look slid in the first half. Wonder if we should give Sakho a go up front...