Arsenal needed just one goal today to beat West Ham and advance to the Carabao Cub semifinals.
The game started at more of a jogging pace than a run. Arsenal had the bulk of possession, spending a lot of time passing the ball around just outside West Ham’s eighteen yard box and rather less time in the box—a few botched crosses and some good defending from their opponents left Arsenal without many real chances at scoring. West Ham had even fewer thanks to Rob Holding and Calum Chambers’s good play at the back. After 35 minutes there still hadn’t been any shots on target from either team. West Ham finally gave David Ospina something to do with a free kick from the left side of Arsenal’s box, and Arsenal countered with two near misses of their own—a smashed shot from Sead Kolasinac that sailed wide, and a header from a Kolasinac cross that Theo Walcott couldn’t put on target.
Arsenal finally opened the scoring in the 42nd minute. Mathieu Debuchy lofted a header into the box, and after a few seconds of chaos and some good work from Olivier Giroud to move defenders out of the way, Danny Welbeck steered the ball past Joe Hart and into the West Ham goal. The Gunners kept the pressure on after that, but West Ham were able to defend, and the half ended with Arsenal up by one.
Welbeck with a typical Welbeck goal. 1-0 Arsenal pic.twitter.com/afEa7aJTaW— Terje (@xArsenalTerje) December 19, 2017
The refereeing crew made a change at halftime, with line judge Stuart Burt leaving with a back issue and Chris Kavanagh taking his place, but both teams came back out unchanged and the game continued as it had in the first half. Debuchy gave away a dangerous free kick at the edge of the box about a third of the way through the half, but nothing came of it for West Ham. Hart then slid straight through Welbeck, earning himself a yellow card, but it was deemed to have happened outside the box, and the resulting free kick came to nothing.
Then in the 76th minute, Giroud pulled up with a hamstring injury and was immediately replaced by Reiss Nelson. There was no contact and Giroud walked off slowly and gingerly, so he’ll almost certainly join Aaron Ramsey and his injured hamstring on the sidelines for a while.
Arsenal squandered a chance after a very good run from Joe Willock, who was replaced shortly afterward by Ben Sheaf. Josh Dasilva then came on for Francis Coquelin, who had picked up what looked to be a groin problem. The Gunners picked up the pace a smidge with fresh legs on the pitch, but they quickly ran out of time, and the game ended 1-0.
This one wasn’t exactly a classic, but the play from Arsenal’s youngsters, particularly Willock, was encouraging. The entire back line was solid as well, with Kolasinac in better form than he has been recently, and Holding and Chambers both having a good game. Walcott, on the other hand, had a rather tough time out there, with a pair of botched crosses, that missed header, and a handful of other mistakes. In addition, the Gunners lost an important option at striker in Giroud and potentially some midfield depth in Coquelin right in the middle of the congested winter period. With Ramsey already out and Kolasinac nursing a little knock despite playing today, Arsenal will have to be careful and diligent about taking care of their players and keeping them fit.
Arsenal will go on to play the two-leg Carabao Cup semifinal in January. Their next game is three days from now, when they host Liverpool in the Premier League.