That deflating sound you heard from East London yesterday, not unlike the air letting out of a whoopie cushion, was Arsenal's dim title chances taking a hit with a 3-3 draw against West Ham. That draw, couple with Leicester's win, leaves Arsenal 13 points off the title pace. Given that Arsenal has six matches remaining, and Leicester has five, Arsenal could be mathematically eliminated from winning the league in the next 10 to 14 days. It was clearly a must-win match for Arsenal, and yet they couldn't muster a road win against a West Ham team with its own top four aspirations.
It wasn't all despair, of course -- there's a reason we look at the Good as well as the Bad and Ugly in our post-match reviews. But a win to at least slow down the Leicester Party Bus sure would have been nice.
"The new guys." The two freshest faces to the Arsenal Starting XI, Mohamed Elneny and Alex Iwobi, continued to shine. Iwobi, in particular, had two brilliant assists to lead a solid first-half lead.
That 2-0 lead. Beautiful goal by Ozil, beautiful goal by Alexis, products of a free-flowing, pretty-playing Arsenal. 35 minutes in, it looked like Jekyll Arsenal had successfully hidden away Hyde Arsenal for the day. But that's the thing about Hyde Arsenal . . .
A defense that invited Andy Carroll over and said, "Make yourself comfortable." There'd already been a defensive lapse leading to a West Ham goal, in the 14th minute, but it was disallowed by an offside flag that, on review, never should have gone up. But Andy Carroll, he of the original man-bun, scored two goals within five minutes -- essentially, the last five minutes of the first half -- to erase the 2-0 lead. Then, to heap woe upon Arsenal further, Carroll added a third goal in Minute 52 to give West Ham the lead. Suddenly, people are calling for Carroll to be part of the England squad going to Euro 2016. The England squad!
Choosing David Ospina and Gabriel for the start. Are there any two players that invoke more groans and grumbling from the entire TSF staff? Ospina had a particularly odious save attempt on the second goal, which ended in a superfluous tumble. Gabriel wasn't as personally, criminally, directly responsible for goals in this match as he was in previous matches he's started, but if Arsenal fans want to point fingers at the defensive problems, he's worthy of at least one finger. (To be fair, no one on the back line covered themselves in glory.)
"Let them play." There's "let them play," and then "let multiple fouls go unchecked." Carroll's takedown of Laurent Koscielny in the fifth minute drew a yellow, but on other days (and with better refs), might have drawn a red and changed the outcome of the match. Carroll committed a foul in the 48th minute that should have been a second yellow and a sending off, but it was one of many fouls ignored on the day. At one point, Mark Noble appeared to shove a ref out of the way and got away with it.
It's April 11 and Arsenal's out of all competitions. Though Arsenal clawed back and salvaged a draw, it's too little too late. Barring a debilitating, month-long case of food poisoning that takes out both Leicester and Spurs, Arsenal's last hope for a trophy is gone, and Arsenal must now worry, principally, in the next few weeks, about keeping its long string of Champions League qualification alive at the expense of at least one of the Manchesters and several other legitimate challengers.