Big announcements are often followed by anti-climactic days. If you’ve ever left a job you’ve been in for a while and been liked/respected at with two weeks notice, you know what this feels like. The day you announce you’re leaving, there’s a big hubbub, maybe your boss brings in donuts, and you all stand around for a few minutes awkwardly as your coworkers feign interest in your next move before excusing themselves for a meeting that probably doesn’t exist.
The Arsenal version of this played out today, on a beautiful North London afternoon at the Emirates. True to form, Wenger didn’t make a fuss before the game, he just ambled out like he always does, and things got started. And, like most of the rest of the Premier League season, Arsenal just ambled out too; the first half looked like the soccer equivalent of that uncomfortable office party. Arsenal didn’t create much, they looked more afraid to concede than willing to attack, and all in all it wasn’t the start to the game that Arsenal or its assembled/widespread-viewing-diaspora supporters were looking for.
That, however, was not for a lack of chances - the Gunners had a fair few that they spurned, either because Joe Hart was Mr. Right Place Right Time or through wasteful aim
The second half started a bit more brightly, and in the 51st minute, Arsenal scored the world’s simplest goal - a Granit Xhaka free kick found the foot (well, the shin) of a completely unmarked Nacho Monreal, who hammered the ball home past a Joe Hart who was clearly expecting his defense to clean up their mess. They didn’t, Hart couldn’t stop the shot, and all of a sudden it’s 1-0 to the Arsenal and off they went.
West Ham leveled just over 10 minutes later - David Ospina punched a shot clear, and instead of defending said clearance, Arsenal just sort of...didn’t. West Ham got a shot off that Kos blocked, but his block went straight to Cheikhou Kouyaté, who neatly dinked the ball over to Manuel Lanzini. Lanzini then put a nice ball into space where several Arsenal defenders should be, but where, in typical Arsenal 2018 fashion, only Marko Arnautovic was, and all of a sudden it was level at 1 and the tension was back.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came on in the 70th minute, though, and immediately changed the tone of the game. All of a sudden, Arsenal looked brighter, more incisive, and like a team that was interested in winning the game.
He quickly made a difference, as well - in the 80th minute, Auba was rampaging down the right, and after a West Ham deflection, Aaron Ramsey found the ball out wide left. He put in what seemed to be a cross, and a miscommunication between Hart and Declan Rice meant that Rice, who was in line for an easy clearance, ducked out of the way of the ball, and then the ball was in the net. 2-1 Arsenal.
Alexandre Lacazette would then get on the scoresheet twice - once from a lovely five-pass team goal in which Danny Welbeck was instrumental, and once from a square pass from Ramsey that found Laca in as much space as Arnautovic was for West Ham’s goal.
So, the first game of the Wenger Goodbye Tour ended 4-1, and given how improved the second half was over the first, that seems a fair scoreline. Now there’s the, uh, simple matter of a European semi-final this week; let’s keep this good feeling rolling, shall we?